Benjamin Netanyahu crossed the Rubicon yesterday. In order to serve the country, he abandoned his father's ideological home. The decision to leave his home came at great emotional cost. The prime minister agonized for 10 days over the text that would redefine him. But in the end, Netanyahu did the right thing. He neither stuttered nor blinked. Instead, he placed the spotlight squarely on one irreplaceable phrase: a demilitarized Palestinian state next to a Jewish State of Israel.
The rhetoric of his speech at Bar-Ilan University was right of center, while its political conclusion was left of center. But if the truth be told, Bibi Netanyahu's message yesterday was one of unity. Bibi, who in the past was seen as divisive, yesterday became a unifier of Israel. He put on the table a clear, realistic and precise diplomatic formula that reflects the worldview of the Israeli majority.
No, Netanyahu did not abandon Likud for Meretz. But he laid the ideological basis for the next political big bang. He pulled the rug out from under Tzipi Livni and became Ariel Sharon's successor. After Bar-Ilan, Netanyahu defines the center. The prime minister is now a unifying premier who is trying to reduce the occupation without undermining Israeli security.
Netanyahu's new move is dangerous. If he loses the right without gaining the left and Barack Obama, it could destroy him. But that is precisely why the Bar-Ilan speech was a courageous one. Netanyahu is well aware of the dangers ahead. Yet at the decisive moment, several days ago, he told his worried aides that he would do the right thing, even if it brought about his downfall. In that moment, he proved that he is not a politician but a statesman. He proved that he has matured. At the end of a long and painful labor, he has given birth to his internal truth.
Netanyahu's new truth is not that of Peace Now. Iran is still the greatest existential threat. An armed Palestinian state is also a threat. And the root of the conflict is the Palestinians' refusal to recognize Jewish history, Jewish sovereignty and the Jewish people's right to a state in the Land of Israel. However, this bitter truth is no longer being translated into an insistence on territory and settlements. Instead, it is being translated into two principles whose morality is incontrovertible: recognition of the Jewish state and demilitarization of the Palestinian state.
These two principles have now been laid before the White House. If Obama refuses to accept them, we will all know that we are facing an American president who is no longer committed to the existence of the State of Israel. But if Obama does accept these two principles and grants Israel international guarantees for peace, he will prove himself a genuine peace leader - a leader who will pave the way to the correct, stable solution of two nation-states: a Jewish state and a Palestinian one.
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