June 2, 2011

It's never too late (but almost) for Israel to win this round.

A Facebook friend has asked me what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu could do to show he really does want to resume negotiations leading to a final settlement with the Palestinians. Obviously, Israel's leader owes me no such proof, but here are a few things he could do to move things forward.

It's a bit late now, since the PM just concluded his big annual pitch to Washington and Jewish audiences, including a White House visit with President Obama (and official Blair House accommodations). Were he serious about negotiations, I'd advise him to halt expansion/growth of existing settlements and run all related decisions and announcements through his own office (which is within his authority).

I would also suggest he bring in the centrist Kadima Party once and for all, so he negotiates from strength without having to let the most right-wing coalition partners drive the agenda. Then I would call on Abbas to meet him one-on-one, and/or possibly with Obama - he should invite the President to visit just for that occasion, and build a state visit around that event (since he has yet to visit Israel as President, and he's running for re-election!) -- call Obama's bluff, as it were. Talk about seizing the initiative and capturing the moral high ground... 

Even if the PM is just blowing smoke, it's still a great way to show up the President of the United States AND the Palestinian leadership, and even the overestimated democratic changes sweeping the rest of the region. By September, if the Europeans sign on to Palestinian statehood even without the U.S. and Israel, it could be too late to come out ahead in this round.

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