Merav Michaeli
Haaretz (Opinion)
May 23, 2011 - 12:00am

"President Obama doesn't understand the reality," according to "associates" of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke after the meeting between the two leaders. And when that is the headline of the daily Yisrael Hayom, it is clearly Netanyahu's headline: "President Obama doesn't understand the reality."

You can't blame him: It really is impossible to understand this reality. It's impossible to understand why a country and a people continue to refuse to do the right thing, something that could have been done a long while back, and prefer to continue to bang their heads against the wall until blood flows, with absolutely no logic, literally amok, like someone who has gone insane. It's hard to understand a reality in which a prime minister sits and, contrary to all logic and every code of conduct, arrogantly lectures his host, the president of the United States. It's hard to understand a reality in which a day before their scheduled meeting, a prime minister responds to the speech of the U.S. president, who is about to host him, with an announcement that is as good as spitting in his face.

So President Obama, here is the reality: The reality is that in the prime minister's own reality show, he is "the leader of a persecuted people" and he likes being "the leader of a persecuted people." That is why no reality in the world has ever convinced our leaders to stop being a persecuted nation. Even Abe Foxman, the chairman of the Anti-Defamation League, who can't be accused of being a leftist, says that Obama's speech is not against Israel and is not bad for Israel and that it includes many things that are good for Israel, but that doesn't make any impression on Bibi Netanyahu and his friends.

But it's not only you, Mr. President. Nine years ago, the 22 Arab League countries submitted a proposal for ending the conflict with the Palestinians and for full normalization with them. The leaders of the people that insist on being persecuted chose not to confuse themselves with the fact that 22 Arab countries were recognizing Israel and accepting its right to exist in peace alongside them. That is why our leaders simply ignored it. To the point where barely 15 percent of the Israeli public is even aware of the existence of the Arab initiative. That is why on Thursday, when we, members of the Israeli peace initiative delegation, presented the Egyptian foreign minister with the initiative that for the first time responds to the Arab peace initiative, he rightly said: For nine years the initiative has been on the table. Now you remembered?

The reality, Mr. President, is that change - thanks to which you were elected, and in which you believe - is the thing that Israel in general and Netanyahu in particular fear most. The reality is that the State of Israel has become accustomed to the present situation and does not recognize itself without it. Israel has existed longer with the occupation than without it; it has existed for most of its years with no border and is deathly afraid of change.

The reality is that Netanyahu never wanted or thought to initiate change. When he was elected two years ago, he understood that in order not to initiate change, he would have to play at negotiations that lead nowhere. But alas, there was nobody in the White House who would play this nice little game with him, and his true colors were exposed: He wants settlements, he wants occupation, he wants the situation as it is and sees no problem with it. And now, Netanyahu prefers confrontation. Confrontation with you, confrontation with the Palestinians, confrontation with anyone he sees as coming out against the persecuted people. The reality is simply that confrontation we already know, Mr. President, but peace we do not know at all.


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