Benjamin Netanyahu cannot say no to Obama. If he does, instead of leading to American-Israeli cooperation on the Iran issue, he would be ensnarled in an Israeli-American confrontation on the Palestine issue.
If he says no, he would be playing into the hands of those who want Obama to deal with the settlements rather than with the centrifuges. If he says no, Netanyahu will come to the moment of truth with the Americans when the U.S. president is at the height of his power and the Israeli prime minister is at his weakest point. If he says no to Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu could end up with his own bones broken and his government and country crushed.
But Netanyahu cannot say yes to Obama, either. If he says yes, the United States could start up immediately a powerful bulldozer to push Israel to the June 4, 1967 borders. If he says yes, Israel would not be able to ensure its vital security interests in the West Bank. If he says yes, an armed Palestinian state, whose missile batteries would prevent the Israel Air Force from launching its planes, would be declared in a short time. If Netanyahu says yes, the American left, European left and Israeli left would push Israel into a hopeless, risky undertaking that would undermine its stability. President Obama and his partners would endanger Israel's future, not from malice but from pure, noble intentions.
Some people propose that Netanyahu evade the dilemma by adopting the road map. Netanyahu must indeed ratify the road map. Its importance is that it seeks to establish the Palestinian state in a gradual, controlled process rather than in an immediate, reckless move. But ultimately the road map is a gray, punctilious, not very successful paper. It has a lot of conniving and little substance. It does not make a statement that adequately defines the two-state vision.
Netanyahu must make a grand statement on Sunday. He must say words of substance and truth. He must present principles for which the nation is willing to make sacrifices and even go to war. On the one hand, the prime minister must accept the two-state idea. There is no other way. On the other hand, he must remove its inherent dangers. Netanyahu must summarize this complexity in one brief phrase that everyone can understand and that will clearly reinforce the Israeli peace concept.
This is the phrase: a two nation-state solution. In detail: a demilitarized Palestine alongside a Jewish Israel. No more than seven words. But seven words that encompass everything. Seven words that transfer the onus from Israel to the Palestinians. Seven words that shift the burden of proof from Benjamin Netanyahu to Barack Obama. Anyone who accepts these seven words is saying that he intends to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a responsible manner. Anyone who rejects them reveals he is hostile to Israel and is not really committed to its security and existence.
The greatest diplomatic error that Kadima's leaders - Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni - made was to agree to establish a Palestinian state without qualifying their consent. They took it for granted that the future Palestine would be demilitarized and Israel would be Jewish. But in affairs of state nothing should be taken for granted. The three-word formula, which speaks of the two-state solution without defining them and setting their limits, is dangerous. In certain circumstances it could even be fatal.
Thus Netanyahu's role is to replace it with the seven-word formula. Only this alternative formula will enable him to fix what his predecessors spoiled. Only the alternative formula will restore Israel's moral high ground.
If our neighbors reject the proposal to set up two nation states, we would all know what we're killing and being killed for. But if they accept the seven-word formula, it would pave the way for real peace. A peace between the demilitarized Palestinian state and the Jewish Israeli state.
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