Haaretz (Editorial)
May 6, 2009 - 12:00am

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares for his meeting in Washington with U.S. President Barack Obama, the White House is sending tough messages to Israel about its expectations. In his speech at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said this was a moment of truth for Israel. The United States is committed to the principle of two states for two peoples, he said, and this is the only solution, so all the parties must meet their obligations, no matter how difficult. Other administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones - who said the Palestinian issue was a high priority - conveyed similar messages.

The U.S. administration is signaling to Netanyahu that he needs to present Obama with a serious plan for a peace agreement centered around the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel - and that there is no point in wasting Obama's valuable time with futile attempts to bypass the internationally accepted two-state solution, set preconditions for negotiations or place any other obstacles in the way. Netanyahu has put Iran at the top of his agenda, but the administration is making it clear that combating the Iranian threat depends on progress on the Palestinian track.

Netanyahu must heed Obama's message and see it as an opportunity to advance the peace process with the help of an active and involved American president who is politically powerful and enjoys international prestige. Instead of going to Washington as someone who refuses to make peace and is attempting to thwart United States policy in the Middle East, Netanyahu needs to seek paths for cooperation and understanding with Obama.

This week marks a full decade since the deadline set by the Oslo Accords for an Israeli-Palestinian final-status agreement. Netanyahu, who was prime minister at that time, would do well to learn a lesson from the opportunity he missed and take advantage of the second chance he has been given to lead the country to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. He will thereby be able to fulfill his dream of making history, as President Shimon Peres said about him.

Netanyahu will have to take political risks. But if he continues his evasions and excuses in an effort to keep his right-wing political partners by his side, he will be remembered by history as a prime minister who wasted his time in power.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017