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NYT: Bibi And Barack

May 17, 2011

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The New York Times' Thomas Friedman argues that both Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and U.S. President Barack Obama are failing to "manage the unavoidable". Friedman criticizes Obama's energy policy and urges Netanyahu to devise a plan to cede the West Bank to the Palestinians.

Reading the headlines from the Middle East these days — Christians and Muslims clashing in Egypt, Syria attempting to crush its democracy rebellion and Palestinians climbing over fences into Israel — you get the sense of a region where the wheels could really start to come off.

In such a moment, President Obama has to show the same decisiveness he showed in tracking down Osama bin Laden. A useful analogy for this moment comes from climate science, where a popular motto says: Given how much climate change is already baked into our future, the best we can do now is manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable.

In Middle East terms, the “unmanageable” we have to avoid is another war between Israel and any of its neighbors. The “unavoidable” we have to manage is dealing with what is certain to be a much more unstable Arab world, sitting atop the world's largest oil reserves. The strategy we need is a serious peace policy combined with a serious energy policy.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel is always wondering why his nation is losing support and what the world expects of a tiny country surrounded by implacable foes. I can't speak for the world, but I can speak for myself. I have no idea whether Israel has a Palestinian or Syrian partner for a secure peace that Israel can live with. But I know this: With a more democratic and populist Arab world in Israel's future, and with Israel facing the prospect of having a minority of Jews permanently ruling over a majority of Arabs — between Israel and the West Bank, which could lead to Israel being equated with apartheid South Africa all over the world — Israel needs to use every ounce of its creativity to explore ways to securely cede the West Bank to a Palestinian state.

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