Israel Should Join the New Reality of World Diplomacy

Who wants to deal with the peace process or dismantling settlements when the entire world is holding its head, uncertain how to act in the face of these budding democracies?

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the demonstrations in Iran and Bahrain and the general feeling of an earthquake rumbling across the Middle East have thus far conferred a sense of deliverance on Israel, as it has managed to escape the spotlight. After all, who wants to deal with the peace process, dismantling settlements, marking the border between Israel and Palestine or defining security arrangements when the entire world is holding its head, uncertain how to act in the face of these budding democracies?

Egypt children - AP - Feb. 12, 2011

The government's characteristic policy of "We lived through Pharaoh, we'll live through this too" has once again been pulled out of the drawer. Yet the shock waves in the Middle East actually obligate us to quickly rev up our strategic thinking. For those same Arab publics that succeeded in ousting two dictators, and have not yet uttered their last word, will eventually demand that their new governments pursue a vigorous foreign policy - or in other words, reexamine their relationship with Israel.

Israel lost an ally when Hosni Mubarak was pushed out of office, but it hasn't lost Egypt - yet. Nor is Israel the only one who lost a partner: The Palestinian Authority also finds itself in a new situation, one in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been pushed to the back burner.

More importantly, however, the American administration will need to pay its promissory note of support for an Arab public that is striving to advance democracy. President Barack Obama will now seek to reestablish America's position as a country responsive to people's yearnings, by evincing willingness to work to oust not only tyrants, but also occupation regimes.

Israel should not wait until this new Arab and American policy develops into a steam-roller. It would do better, in contrast to its usual policy, to view the changes in the Middle East as an opportunity and to preemptively propose a diplomatic initiative - one that will make it clear to the Arab states, and to the entire world, that it is ready to be part of the new reality.

The prime minister cannot make do with "carefully monitoring" developments. He must present a realistic plan, complete with a timetable, that will enable PA President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table in order to complete the diplomatic process.