Editorial

A Reminder to Netanyahu: The Past Need Not Define Our Future

Israelis can only listen in envy to Trump’s words and wish that their own leader had a shred of his diplomatic courage

This handout photo taken on June 12, 2018 and released by The Straits Times shows North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) shaking hands with US President Donald Trump (R) as they meet for the historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore.
KEVIN LIM/AFP

As U.S. President Donald Trump walked alongside North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before their first summit in Singapore, Kim said to Trump: “Many people will think of this as a scene from a fantasy a science fiction movie.”

No doubt about it, Kim Jong Un was attuned to the thoughts of many throughout the world. It’s hard to believe the sight of those two men, who just a few weeks ago were trading barbs and threats, now walking side by side, sitting at the same table sharing a meal, and shaking hands.

True, it’s still too soon to tell whether the document signed by the two leaders will in the end lead to Pyongyang’s denuclearization and to peace on the Korean peninsula. Some rightly say that there is something wrong about the leader of the world’s most powerful country meeting with a dictator who oppresses his people, without conditioning reconciliation on freedom for those people – and that this puts an international seal of approval on his cruel regime.

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There is no shortage of good reasons for continued skepticism toward Trump’s achievement. He is a president with a controversial style, both in terms of his unpredictable personal behavior and his unique psychodrama diplomacy, which includes ambitious declarations of intent, insults, military threats and the rejection of classical diplomacy.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to remain indifferent to Trump’s generous statements. “Anyone can make war, but only the most courageous can make peace. Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war,” he said.

Israelis can only listen in envy to these words and wonder why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has in no small measure adopted the style of the president he so admires, remains true to himself only when it comes to his diplomatic stinginess and cowardice. If Netanyahu had but a shred of Trump’s diplomatic daring, opportunities that seem like science fiction could also be created in the Middle East, including a brave and sincere attempt to end the conflict with the Palestinians.

“The past does not have to define our future,” Trump said at the end of his meeting with Kim. What a pity that in Israel, Netanyahu is doing all he can to leave things as they are, come what may. Only diplomatic daring can smash through the decades in which Israelis were made to believe “there is no partner” and that we have “left no stone unturned.” The truth is that we have not tried everything and have not turned over every stone. All Israelis should ask themselves whether the distance between the Americans and the North Koreans is smaller than the distance between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.