For those who closely follow American politics, there was a strong sense of déjà vu as last week's elections results started coming in. Once again a newly elected popular president watched his poll numbers drop as initial euphoria evaporates once the harsh economic realities refuse to disappear and it becomes apparent that all can not be cured with a few speeches.
Here in Israel the immediate question that inevitably crops up once the dust has settled is: "what does this mean for us?" While the long-term answer to this question is heatedly debated, what is clear is that this new political reality offers a unique window of opportunity for Prime Minister Netanyahu to further clarify and crystallize Israel's red lines in negotiation with the Palestinians when he meets with key administration officials in the United States this week.
The professional pundit class seems split in their predictions on how President Obama will react to last weeks "shellacking" of Democrats.
Some think that the president will realize that the American public is disappointed with his performance to date, resulting in a refocusing of his efforts on his domestic agenda and attempting to turn the economy around with the hope of salvaging the remainder of his term, and winning reelection in 2012.
Other experts warn that once it becomes apparent to Obama that there is little he can do within his power to actually lower the stubbornly high unemployment rate, he will turn to overseas adventures where the president has much more authority to act without congressional approval. This path may very well result in a renewed effort by the Administration to reach their stated goal of a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian agreement within a year. Needless to say, Israel's best interests may not be at the top of the agenda for an Administration that is racing to hold a South Lawn ceremony within 10 months.
As President Obama and his advisors contemplate which of these paths to chose, it is vital that Prime Minister Netanyahu take this opportunity to once again clearly state Israel's red lines in negotiating with the Palestinians. Whether this clarification serves to bolster our friends in Congress, or remind the Administration as they plan any new initiatives, it is crucial that our American allies understand where we stand on these issues as we inch closer to returning to direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
Thankfully, the prime minister does not need to start from scratch. In his historic speech at Bar Ilan University in June of 2009, Netanyahu laid out three key areas where Israel's red lines cannot be crossed.
The Palestinians must agree to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. While some Palestinians have belittled this demand as an unnecessary game of semantics, nothing can be further from the truth. We unfortunately are witnesses on a daily basis to the indoctrination of the next generation of Palestinians as children are taught to deny the Jewish people's right to a state in ANY part of the Land of Israel.
This is the message that Palestinian youths are taught in official Palestinian Authority schools, broadcasts and even in children programming. We cannot hope to live in peace with neighbors who do not believe that we have even the most basic right of existence in this land.
Jerusalem cannot be dividedIsrael must remain within defensible borders as the result of any peace agreement. We cannot compromise on territorial concessions in the Jordan Valley or on the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria which overlook the center of our country. We have learned the lessons of the Lebanon and Gaza withdrawals and we simply cannot let ourselves repeat these mistakes when the population centers of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the strategic Ben Gurion Airport are at stake.
Finally, Jerusalem can never be divided again. Jerusalem – Zion itself – is the raison d'être for our national existence here in Israel and it is the glue that holds the entire Jewish people together. We are already witness to a steady elimination of our sovereignty in the capital. Daily news reports are full of stories of PA officials funding schools and social clubs, ambulances refusing to serve certain neighborhoods due to stone throwing, and Jews fearing to visit the graves of their ancestors on the Mount of Olives where they are subjected to daily violent attacks.
Without a clear stance on this most basic issue we will soon find ourselves chased out of the city we dreamed of for 2,000 years.
As fate (or good planning) would have it, the prime minister finds himself in the US this week meeting with Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton during this pivotal period. Now is the time to explain to these and other Administration officials that just as the US has vital interests that it works tirelessly to safeguard, Israel too must stand strong on our principles or the chance of reaching a just, lasting and true peace will quickly fade and collapse as happened too many times in the past.
The new Congress in Washington, and the policy choices that the Administration will soon make, present an opportunity for the prime minister to reiterate and elaborate on the important points that he made in his Bar Ilan speech. These points are all vital in ensuring that Israel's basic interests are protected.
I hope that the prime minister makes the most of his trip to the US this week and ensures that all of our friends in Washington know that while our yearning for peace is genuine and strong, Israel will not waver on these key fundamental issues.
Ari Harow served as the Director of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Bureau and is a public affairs and international business strategic consultant
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