Seize the moment, prime minister

All supporters of peace in the Mideast should be satisfied with the outcome of Monday's meeting in Washington.

netanyahu speaks jerusalem day 248 88 (photo credit: GPO)
netanyahu speaks jerusalem day 248 88
(photo credit: GPO)
All supporters of peace in the Middle East should be satisfied with the outcome of Monday's meeting in Washington. Prime Minister Netanyahu aired rather constructive and moderate views, but overall he did not surprise anybody. President Obama, however, expressed a fresh American ideology that will help resolve the conflict in the region. Israel need not worry: Obama is a friend of Israel who will maintain the ethos of Israeli-American friendship from the two prior administrations. He is aware of Israel's security needs and will consider them in the peace process. In terms of his ideology, he stated firmly that the best solutions to conflicts are achieved through steadfast negotiations and that the use of force is only a last resort. Second, he understands the Palestinian need for land, and he therefore demands, unequivocally, the total freezing of settlements. The American president appreciates the opportunity recently created to build a coalition with the Arab countries against Iran and its allied fundamentalists. I believe that when Obama visits Cairo in early June, he will present his own peace initiative after his meetings with Mahmoud Abbas and Hosni Mubarak, which will include a two-state solution and a regional peace backed by the Saudi initiative. This gradual peace plan will include the following stipulations: peace negotiations with the Palestinians and possibly with Syria; Palestinian security measures against terror; Palestinian steps to create modern institutions; Israel's freezing of settlements; Israel's removal of illegal outposts and roadblocks; and economic and security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. For their part, the Arab countries will take gradual measures to normalize relations with Israel, including promoting tourism to and from Israel (including flights), and cooperation in economic, social and cultural fields. It is important Obama understands that all issues are intertwined: the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the regional peace process and the effect of pacification in the Middle East on isolating Iran and its allies. Netanyahu, whose position does not completely coincide with that of Obama, did not succeed in masking his dissidence. However, he will face a critical crossroads in the next two months. He needs to decide whether to head toward an unprecedented, historic peace move with the Palestinians and in the region, or to resort to the old ideology promulgated by his friends on the Right side of the coalition. We should hope that Netanyahu understands the significant opportunity that a worldly, brilliant American president places in front of us. We should hope that Netanyahu continues the discussion with Obama and the Arab leaders on a path to peace and security - a path which ultimately will isolate Iran, and will thwart the existential threat posed by Iran and by Arab fundamentalism. The writer, who was Israel's chief negotiator of the Oslo accords, is the president of the Peres Center for Peace.