Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi waves as he arrives to the opening ceremony of the New Suez Canal.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The European Union's apparent decision to mark products manufactured in settlements beyond the Green Line is a further escalation in the campaign to delegitimize Israel. It is motivated by the desire among influential forces to compel Israel to relinquish the territories. It is doubtful whether such a move will yield fruit (not necessarily because of anything we do), but it does require the government to deal with the matter in earnest.
Alongside the rising tide of Islamic terrorism and the Iranian nuclear project, the specter of boycott should be listed among the three main strategic threats facing Israel. Despite the danger, Israel has yet to respond with substance to this matter.
The prime minister is too busy, while the Foreign Ministry under his leadership has been carved up into different departments, its work force demoralized and frustrated. The minister in charge of combating the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, Gilad Erdan, is too busy trying to name a police chief.
If Israel doesn't get its act together and place the issue at the top of its ministerial agenda, it will find itself on a slippery slope that will eventually lead to boycotts and unprecedented isolation. It will extend to sports, culture, academia, science, medicine, and other fields. By the time the boycott crosses the Green Line into central Israel and is felt in the greater Tel Aviv area, it might be too late.
So what should Israel do? What should the Israeli message to the world look like? How will the state arm its hasbara messengers in embassies and diplomatic missions around the world? In my judgment, there is only one way - a sincere, genuine renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians.
I know that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas doesn't have enough power, and that he prefers to enjoy the status of a head of state without the responsibility of ruling over an actual state. I also know that it is inconvenient for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act while heading a rightist coalition, and I also understand that US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry won't apply any pressure. They've given up, and these next two years we can expect "quiet" from the US. It will be at least a year before a new president and a new administration formulate a Mideast policy.
But the government of Israel cannot hang its hat on these factors. It must initiate a process urgently, one that will stop its deteriorating international standing and head off boycotts and isolation. It must act to restart talks, and it must do so honestly and forthrightly. It must present a multi-year plan that will spell out a gradual road map to achieving a solution, all the while proceeding with caution.
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With countries around it collapsing and struggling to maintain law and order, Israel now has a window of opportunity. In the foreseeable future, despite the danger of a rise in terrorism, no Arab country poses an existential threat to Israel. That is why the government can permit itself to take the initiative from a position of strength with the aim of seriously examining the possibility of compromise. It can act out of a deep belief that Netanyahu has the obligation to present the youth of this region - Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians - with hope for a better future, without blood, sweat, and tears. With whom can he do this?
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is the Egyptian people's special gift to the State of Israel. We are talking about a worthy leader who projects strength, confidence, and authority. He is devoting all of his energies toward bolstering Egypt's economy and infrastructure as evidenced by the new Suez Canal project as well as the discovery of natural gas reserves.
Sisi is also committed to waging an uncompromising war against Islamic terrorism, which has dealt a lethal blow to Egypt's tourism industry, and he has been level-headed in opposing Iran and its interests in the region.
The Hamas leadership can only dream of the days when it was Mohammad Morsi who occupied the president's seat. It's safe to assume that the Palestinian Islamists in Gaza would gladly welcome back Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman, who allowed Hamas to blossom with the aim of maintaining a counterweight against the Muslim Brotherhood.
Sisi has turned his back on Hamas. By flooding the tunnels under the Gaza-Sinai border, he has dented the organizations capacity to smuggle weapons to and from the Strip.
During Operation Protective Edge, Israel, in concert with Kerry, acted wisely and responsibly when they enabled Sisi to solidify his hold on the presidency. It is in Israel's vested interests that Egypt grow stronger, not just as a party to the peace treaty, but also in its struggle against terrorism and Iran's nuclearization.
On this Succot holiday, as Netanyahu reflects on Israel's situation from the confines of his home on Balfour Street in Jerusalem or his private residence in Caesarea, not only will he have to eventually deal with Russia's return to the Middle East as well as with his planned meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington, but he will also have to contend with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' dramatic speech before the UN General Assembly.
Aside from Shimon Peres, Netanyahu is the longest-serving and most capable statesman that Israel has to offer. In addition to the fears that he carries with him, he also has a wealth of experience from which to draw. It seems to me that Netanyahu can find in Sisi and Jordan's King Abdullah two worthy partners for renewing and advancing a diplomatic process that can eventually yield an end to the conflict.
If Netanyahu presents his remarks to the UN after meeting with Sisi and Abdullah, coordinating with them his future plans, he can restore Israel to its rightful place on the international stage. It may not be a light unto the nations, but at least it would be going in the right direction.
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