WASHINGTON – A moment before the launch of the United Nations General Assembly, the American president should have opened the Oval Office drawer and pulled out what's been lying there for more than two years now: Obama's peace plan.
This plan does not include anything unknown to the parties: It contains all the components the president spoke about at various opportunities, including his appearance at the AIPAC conference. In the face of the Palestinian UN bid and Israel's rejection of any offer, Obama should present the Security Council with an American proposal and put it up for a vote.
What is needed now is not an American veto or rhetorical juggling. Obama needs to do what he promised to do when he was elected: Establish the Palestinian state and put an end to the occupation and to the conflict.
The president attempted to do so, unsuccessfully, without involving the UN. However, the sand in the hourglass is running out now: The Palestinians, who are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, have despaired of any other route and chose the UN. Netanyahu is uninterested in this or that route; he is mostly uninterested, because he can afford to be uninterested.
Barack Obama cannot afford such luxury: The world watches him and weighs its steps based on the president's leadership. This is true both for the Arab world and for Europe.
Upon his election, the American president brought great hope to the Middle East as well. He pledged to bring peace between Israel and Palestine on the basis of two states coexisting alongside each other. He also received an advance payment in the form of a Nobel Peace Prize. Now, his finest hour has arrived.
Reshuffle the deck
This week at the UN, Obama can reshuffle the deck and undermine, at once, all the speculations and manipulations with a positive leadership move: He can present the Security Council with an American proposal - endorsed by the Quartet - that includes the essence of his peace plan: The establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps.
He can add a clause that stipulates that Israel will recognize the Palestinian state and the Palestinians will recognize Israel as the Jewish state. He needs to present a timetable, and along with Europe and Russia exert diplomatic pressure on the parties to enter negotiations the day after the vote.
A leader who speaks in two voices quickly loses his credibility. Obama said that he is in favor of a Palestinian state, yet now he is about to impose a veto on a move meant to advance this state, even if only symbolically. A US veto would be destructive not only to America's standing in the Arab world; it will be destructive for Israel, which shall again be portrayed as a US satellite state.
This will outrage all the liberal groups in America, including the Jews and the liberals, who argue that Israel drags America into action that contradicts its own basic interests.
This week at the UN, President Obama can validate all the hopes pinned on him. While doing so he can also introduce a stimulating element into the Middle East, which is already tired of empty rhetoric and false promises. He was wrong when he listened to White House officials who objected to presenting his plan. This week he can surprise everyone.
Indeed, by undertaking this move, the American president can re-position himself as a leader, not only as a president.