The moment of truth is at hand

The soothing statements being made on the hour by government spokesmen cannot hide the bitter truth or cover up the new reality that is taking shape in Washington.

The sad truth is that the State of Israel will face a confrontation with the Obama administration, irrespective of the public outcome of the meeting between the U.S. president and Israel's prime minister. The soothing statements being made on the hour by government spokesmen cannot hide the bitter truth or cover up the new reality that is taking shape in Washington. The writing is on the wall - or as the late foreign minister Moshe Dayan said during a serious dispute with the Carter administration: "I may only have one eye, but I'm not blind."

It isn't pleasant, but anyone reading between the lines is beginning to understand that the Obama administration is becoming increasingly like the Carter administration. For 30 years, Israel has not had to deal with as difficult - sometimes even hostile - a U.S. administration as the Carter one. I can personally attest to the brutal style and blatant threats that characterized the relationship between Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin. Indeed, Carter is someone whose beginnings can be seen in the way he has ended up.

The Obama White House, meanwhile, has been accepting and welcoming of those who spent years arguing that American foreign policy has been enslaved to Israel's interests and is influenced by the Jewish lobby, but were unable to get a foot in the door during the Reagan, Clinton and Bush administrations. Even within the American Jewish community - which has been a loyal ally of Israel and the bastion of its support in the United States - there have arisen some influential groups that are no longer willing to back every position of the Israeli government.

But none of this means that Israel should give in. We have experienced difficult confrontations with the United Stats in the past, and we have emerged intact. Nonetheless, everything depends on the Israeli government's behavior, wisdom and policies. The dispute would inevitably have broken out in any case, but a government under Ehud Olmert or Tzipi Livni, or a genuine national unity government, could have stood up to the United States with greater ease than the current one. However, the Netanyahu government can also weather this confrontation, as long as it is clever enough to steer such a conflict toward issues on which there is a consensus in Israel, and which are widely supported in the United States and around the world. Moreover, it must radiate action rather than words, broadcasting the message that this is a government that is pursuing peace, not rejecting it.

The U.S. Congress, American Jewry and American public opinion will support Israel - even over the opposition of a popular president - on anything related to rejecting the right of return and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, as well as Jerusalem and the settlement blocs. However, very few will support Israel if it does not state clearly that the two-state solution is essential - first and foremost, for its own existence - and if it does not bring the double talk to an end once and for all, if it does not stop turning a blind eye and dragging its feet on matters pertaining to the settlements and the evacuation of outposts. The moment of truth for Benjamin Netanyahu is at hand.