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By: Michal Radoshitzky, Y-net

PM Netanyahu should leverage refreshing US approach to Arab world

In a recent effort by the US to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid Prime Minister Netanyahu a first official visit since he took office earlier this year. Although the gesture was certainly an important one, further to America’s ongoing engagement in our region, it could hardly be treated as groundbreaking news.

The real news, however, was that during the course of two days, in addition to Netanyahu, Clinton also met Arab leaders such as Moroccan King Mohammed VI, Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and foreign ministers of several Persian Gulf nations. This refreshing change in the US approach to the Arab world - which was kicked off by President Obama’s speech at Cairo University on June 4th this year - should be clasped by Netanyahu’s two hands in order to leverage Israel’s interests.

At this crucial moment in time, when Iran is or isn’t going towards a nuclear weapon, but is most certainly calling for Israel’s destruction; when Turkey’s recent political moves have been interpreted by the Israeli media as “aligning with the Axis of Evil”; and when Arab League states are talking about imposing a time limit on their 2002 Peace Initiative – Netanyahu would do well to look beyond narrow internal coalition manoeuvres.

An October poll commissioned by the Geneva Initiative fould that 51% of the Israeli public is satisfied with Netanyahu’s performance in the political arena with most (52% as opposed to 31%) substantiating this stand in the belief that he will make the necessary concessions in order to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. This is Netanyahu’s opportunity then to declare the opening of a win-win game as opposed to a zero-sum one.

He can do this by tentatively overlooking the details of which settlement will be in or out and by stating that with the help of the moderate Arab world, he is willing to go to an endgame agreement with the Palestinians and to immediately start negotiations on all core issues: Jerusalem, refugees and borders.

Arab world getting tired

In the current state of affairs, such statements should also be backed by a complete halt of settlement construction including the issuing of tenders and other detours which deflate the near-dead peace process time and time again.

The moderate Arab world is getting tired of Israel’s foot-dragging; a pragmatic potential Palestinian partner is going to elections and it is in our interest to strengthen him.

And if this is not enough – Netanyahu may be mobilized by the above-mentioned poll, which found that 63% of Israelis believe that prolonging the current situation without a political process between Israel and the Palestinians is simply bad for Israel.

The close proximity between Secretary Clinton’s visit to Israel and her meeting with Arab leaders, whose embassies could become part of the Jerusalem landscape under a future peace agreement, provided Netanyahu a chance to assist the Americans who are tirelessly trying to assist us. The longer he waits, the more opportunities like the one he had now will be missed, the less patience the world will have to deal with our conflict, the greater the damage for Israel.