'Wanted Lapid as FM.' Obama
Photo: Reuters

Progress or explosion

Op-ed: President Obama may as well postpone visit to region if he does not plan to advance peace process

The International Monetary Fund published a report last week in praise of the Steinitz-Fayyad agreement, which, according to the IMF's experts, is the most efficient way to reinforce the economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, for the benefit of both sides.


On the one hand, the report is a flattering parting gift for outgoing Finance Minister Steinitz. On the other hand, six months before the 20 year anniversary of the handshake between Rabin and Arafat, the fact that this is the only Israeli-Palestinian agreement signed over the past decade is shocking and shows both sides are apathetically racing down the slope of regional disaster with open eyes.


The recent kidnapping of UN monitors in Syria drew the Pavlovian "we are concerned" response from Israel. As expected, there was talk of alertness and the need to prepare for any scenario. This is how we respond to developments we cannot control. But when it comes to a ticking bomb located five minutes form Kfar Saba and 10 minutes from Jerusalem, when something has to be done, the "concern" disappears, and instead of diplomatic and strategic maneuvers we see tactical military action.


This is why it is important to tell President Obama that if he plans to visit in 10 days in order to express support for Israeli society rather than launch and assertively advance a real diplomatic process – perhaps he should postpone the trip.


The Oslo process failed, but it remains the only way to end the conflict, which threatens us more than any Iranian missile and is preventing us from becoming a just civil society that invests in education and health more than in the unequal share of the burden.


In his first term Obama did nothing to rescue the peace talks from the quicksand. He grew tired of Abbas' apprehensiveness and Netanyahu's babble too quickly. He must change this attitude.


A new government will be established in Israel soon, and its composition will not encourage Obama. Netanyahu will serve as foreign minister in the first year, after which Avigdor Lieberman will take over as Israel's top diplomat. Netanyahu is saving the position for Lieberman as though it were a seat in a synagogue. The defense minister will apparently be Moshe Ya'alon who, unlike Ehud Barak, opposes the basic components of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and openly rejects any moves that include a construction freeze. Tzipi Livni? It is doubtful she will be able to operate against the current in such a government and produce real negotiations.


This leaves us with Yair Lapid. The "new politics" ended the day the Yesh Atid chairman should have been appointed foreign minister. Netanyahu is afraid of Lieberman (and he knows why), and Bennett used his alliance with Lapid to get rid of Shas, but he became less enthusiastic when this alliance was about to place someone who truly believes in the "two states for two peoples" solution at the forefront of Israel's diplomatic efforts.


If Lapid is named finance minister, he will be able to take comfort in his ability to bolster the Steinitz-Fayyad agreement. But he will also be able to recruit his 19 mandates to pressure Netanyahu into a real diplomatic process. Washington wanted Lapid as foreign minister; now the US is hoping that if this does not happen he will at least be able to wake the tired government that is being formed from its slumber.



פרסום ראשון: 03.10.13, 10:58
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