Uri Dromi
The Miami Herald (Opinion)
April 9, 2010 - 12:00am

This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summed up the first year of his term. Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu boasted that, ``We have made 1,500 decisions.''

The good souls here were quick to remind us that this government was formed in a hurry on March 31, 2009, just minutes away from All Fools Day. Pundits ridiculed the abundance of decisions, saying that it was better to check how many of them actually were implemented. Others said that actually, for every one of 750 decisions made, there was one reversing it and so on.

Maybe Netanyahu did make all those decisions. However, he didn't make the most important one, about the most crucial issue facing us: How to save Jewish and democratic Israel from turning into a binational state, where the Arabs might eventually become the majority.

On the one hand, he gave the famous speech at Bar Ilan University, where he reluctantly spoke about the need to progress toward a two-state solution. On the other hand, the nature of his right-wing coalition and the ongoing settlement mechanism indicate that, rhetoric aside, his heart is probably somewhere else.

Others, in the meantime, are going to make decisions regardless of what Israel would or wouldn't do, and that might put Netanyahu in an awkward situation.

One of them is Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Speaking to Akiva Eldar of Haaretz newspaper, he said that, ``The time for this baby to be born will come, and we estimate it will come around 2011. That is our vision, and a reflection of our will to exercise our right to live in freedom and dignity in the country [where] we are born, alongside the State of Israel in complete harmony.''

Some Israelis were quick to dismiss this. After all, there were such declarations in the past, and they came to nothing. The first occurred in Gaza on Oct. 1, 1948, and the second in Algiers, on Nov. 15, 1988, at a meeting of the Palestine National Council. A lot of noise was raised in the world over this in 1988, but the facts on the ground foiled that move.

This time, however, it looks different. First of all, unlike previous times, when the declarations were not supported by reality, Salam Fayyad is serious. In the last years he has been working tirelessly to create the institutions for the future state, and the civic society necessary to sustain it. His success is appreciated by many observers and partners, including the Israelis. As a matter of fact, meeting in Moscow in mid-March, the Quartet on the Middle East (the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia) decided to support the Palestinian Authority's plan, announced in August 2009, to establish a Palestinian state within two years.

The other one who is ready to make a decision is President Barack Obama. Unlike former presidents, who preferred taking on the challenge of the Middle East only in their second term (if there was one), Obama seems to be keen about doing it now. According to David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Obama is now considering a new peace plan for the Middle East, to be announced in the fall.

What would this plan look like? The top officials who spoke to Ignatius hinted that it would resemble the one offered by President Bill Clinton at Camp David in 2000, which included giving the Palestinians almost all of the West Bank, far-reaching agreements about Jerusalem and, above all, the final resolution of the conflict.

The fact that it was Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak who accepted the deal, and it was Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat who rejected it, doesn't seem to deter Obama from repeating this exercise. Emboldened by his victory on healthcare, he has established his reputation as someone who won't take No for an answer.

The problem is that judging from his conduct up till now, Obama will succeed only by appeasing the Arabs (and getting nothing in return) and by pressuring Israel. Add to this the timing of that potential plan: In September, the 10-month freeze on settlement is over, and if Israel resumes building in full force, as Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has promised, then a head-on collision between Israel and the United States is guaranteed.

Netanyahu, then, should make a decision of his own, before he is caught between the decisions of others. I hope he preempts the Palestinian decision by announcing that Israel will pull out of most of the West Bank to serve its own best interests. I doubt, though, if this will happen. Alternately, he can try the Syrian track, but there again, the price is known: the Golan Heights.

One way or another, he shouldn't be dragged screaming and yelling to the table, to be coerced to agree to plans cooked by others. The least he can do is restore trust with the White House so that he is not surprised by further American moves, and maybe have some input in them.


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