Israelis were glued to their televisions last month, listening to a torrent of
eloquent speeches from Washington, DC. With his rich language, Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu won over both houses of Congress – which couldn’t seem to
cheer loudly enough – as well as his hard-Right base at home.
Israelis, however, were left cold.
When you’ve lived with an unresolved,
violent conflict for this long, the cheers of Congress do not help.
matters is that we find a way to get past rhetoric and take our country’s future
back into our own hands.
This, I’m sorry to say, our prime minister
failed to do.
Indeed, in reaching for the applause of American lawmakers
and Israeli extremists, Netanyahu managed to slap away the hand extended by
Israel’s most stalwart ally. Like every president in the past 10 years,
President Barack Obama understands that for Israel to have peace and security,
it will have to adopt a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with
mutually agreed land swaps. But Netanyahu was having none of it.
than embrace the peace plans put forward for 20 years, he chose to stir up faux
controversy and insist that the “status quo” – a situation that has been
deteriorating for years – can last forever.
In so doing, Netanyahu not
only declined America’s help in getting out of our deadly stalemate, he missed a
golden opportunity to help us determine our own fate.
Instead, here we
stand, mere months away from a United Nations vote on Palestinian sovereignty,
with no more vision than we’ve had for years. The world will move on,
Palestinian statehood will probably be approved by a sizable number of states,
and Israel – a nation predicated on the Jewish people taking their future into
their own hands – will be forced to react and “refuse” again, alienating the
To make matters worse, the vote won’t change much on the ground.
No – the occupation will still be in place, settlements will continue to expand,
and the conflict will still be unresolved.
But violence may erupt, and
IDF soldiers will have to react on what by then will be considered Palestinian
territory, so Israel will find itself in an even deeper morass.
reversal of fortunes! The Palestinians – long seen as refusing to yield and
waiting for others to resolve their problems – have launched an ingenious
diplomatic offensive. At a time when all the world is focused on Arab
revolution, this move is irresistible. It’s as if the torch of state-building
has passed from our nation to theirs.
In the absence of diplomatic
movement, the Palestinians have taken matters into their own hands, beginning
the hard work of creating state institutions from the ground up, while Israel’s
leaders have remained trapped in their mental paralysis.
government doesn’t snap out of it, Israel will find itself increasingly
Already, hardly a day goes by without yet another boycott
against our business, academic or cultural communities, while even friendly
governments level harsher and harsher pronouncements against us.
surprisingly, Israel’s far Right greeted Obama’s speeches with fear and
resentment, wildly applauding Netanyahu’s belligerent response. Some individuals
even suggested that the president appeared to lack basic knowledge of regional
geography – when it would seem our own prime minister doesn’t know how to read a
map. If he did, he wouldn’t have set us on a collision course with our greatest
friend and ally.
Realistically Netanyahu now has three choices: recognize
the Palestinian state and present his own peace plan, with more flexibility and
less fear; accept the parameters reiterated by Obama last month, thus joining
our greatest ally in a new diplomatic initiative; or do nothing, dig in and
It appears the prime minister has chosen the latter, though the sad
truth is that we no longer have the luxury of attempting to wait out our
The status quo is simply not sustainable, the situation is
worsening, and events now shaking the Arab world won’t spare Palestinian
Whereas a renewed peace process enjoying some measure of success
would ensure the success of pragmatic forces in Palestinian society, a
continuing lack of progress will give Hamas and other extremists the upper
Frankly put: Our only chance at survival as a Jewish, democratic
state is by having a peaceful Palestinian state at our side. What will my prime
minister’s choice be? Peace and stability, albeit at a price? Or going down in
history as the prime minister who preferred the cheers of a foreign legislature
and homegrown rejectionists over the needs of his own people? The writer served
as Israel’s consul general in New York (1992-1996), and as an MK in the Labor
and One Israel parties (1999-2009).