Ostensibly, both Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas focused on separate subjects in their UN addresses:
Netanyahu on the need to halt the Iranian nuclear program; Abbas on the need to
end Israeli occupation and establish Palestinian statehood. However, neither
drew the connection between the two supposedly separate issues they addressed –
a link that would make progress on both issues more likely.
described a grim picture that was just and true for each. But they did not lay
the foundations for a road to a brighter future for their people, or for the
Netanyahu and Abbas both addressed international and
domestic audiences at the same time. Their subtext was that unless the
international community intervenes, other drastic measures will be taken or
violence may erupt.
Both used the respective national catastrophes of
their people to call on the international community to take action. Abbas,
referring to the Nakba (the displacement of the Palestinians that followed the
1948 war), argued that “Israel is promising the Palestinian people a new
catastrophe, a new Nakba.”
Netanyahu declared again that a clear red line
must be delineated to stop Iran’s nuclear program, pointing to Tehran’s denial
of the Holocaust and asserting that the world’s failure to draw such a line in
the 1930s enabled the bloodbaths of World War II.
At the podium Netanyahu
then literally drew a red line near the top of a sketch of a bomb to illustrate
where, in his view, Iran’s uranium enrichment must be halted. He should have
drawn his red line on a map connecting Tehran to Ramallah.
to forcefully tackle Iran’s nuclear program, the US will have to create an
international coalition beyond the one it has already assembled to impose
sanctions on Iran. And this coalition must include the moderate Arab and Muslim
countries, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, in order not to
exacerbate tensions between the Western and Muslim worlds.
increasing power of the people of Middle East will not allow the heads of these
countries to join a US-led coalition unless there are clear signs of progress in
resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establishing a Palestinian
The Arab street views such progress as the paramount test of US
leadership. Thus, trust that Israel is sincere about reaching a two-state
solution and hope that a resolution is feasible need to be restored.
REINSTATE trust and hope, and to ensure Israel’s future as a secure, democratic
homeland for the Jewish people, Netanyahu must do more than hail Israel’s open
and innovative society in speeches at the UN. He needs to reaffirm Israel’s
commitment to the two-state solution.
Even more importantly, he must
demonstrate it by taking tangible steps that gradually create a reality of two
states for two peoples. This will also enable the world to present a uniform
coalition to confront Iran’s nuclear program and the forces of radical
Such a message by Netanyahu could draw on the Arab Peace
Initiative, further encouraging moderate Arab states to join an anti-Iran
coalition. It should aim at creating a sense of progress and hope, which
was lacking from both UN addresses. Constructive measures would replace the
negative rhetoric and dramatically increase Israel’s influence.
steps would not obstruct a return to negotiations at any point. Such
constructive actions should include a statement of Israel’s willingness to
return to negotiations and a declaration that Israel does not have any
sovereignty claims over areas east of the security fence. These would lead to
complementary domestic measures, such as a voluntary evacuation-compensation law
for settlers living east of the fence so that those who wish can begin
relocating to within Israel proper, and a blueprint for the absorption of all
settlers who relocate.
These internal steps, proposed by the non-partisan
Israeli organization Blue White Future, will go a long way toward conveying
Israel’s sincerity to the Arab world and international community.
UN address, Netanyahu chose not to acknowledge the connection between the
Israeli- Palestinian conflict and the effectiveness of an anti-Iran coalition.
If, instead, he had chosen to draw the red line from Teheran to Ramallah, he
could have made Israel more secure and the Middle East less unstable.
author, a former director of Shin Bet, is a co-founder and member of the Board of
Blue White Future, a non-partisan, Israeli organization
(bluewhitefuture.org). He served as commander-in-chief of the
Israel Navy and was appointed to the Israel Cabinet as a minister without
portfolio in 2007, becoming chairman of the Ministerial State Control Committee
and a member of the security cabinet.