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.Once again, Friedman tries to sound even-handed - he understands Israel's precarious position, he doesn't know if Israel has a peace partner, he knows that the situation is complex and fluid.
I repeat: It may not be possible. But Netanyahu has not spent his time in office using Israel's creativity to find ways to do such a deal. He has spent his time trying to avoid such a deal - and everyone knows it. No one is fooled.
Israel is in a dangerous situation. For the first time in its history, it has bad relations with all three regional superpowers - Turkey, Iran and Egypt - plus rapidly eroding support in Europe. America is Israel's only friend today. These strains are not all Israel's fault by any means, especially with Iran, but Israel will never improve ties with Egypt, Turkey and Europe without a more serious effort to safely get out of the West Bank.
The only way for Netanyahu to be taken seriously again is if he risks some political capital and actually surprises people. Bibi keeps hinting that he is ready for painful territorial compromises involving settlements. Fine, put a map on the table. Let's see what you're talking about. Or how about removing the illegal West Bank settlements built by renegade settler groups against the will of Israel's government. Either move would force Israel's adversaries to take Bibi seriously and would pressure Palestinians to be equally serious.
Yet he does not ever mention that all of the intransigence is from the Palestinian Authority. He doesn't point out that even the dovish Israeli governments got nowhere with Abbas, even with specific maps and plans.
To Friedman, there is but one goal: Israel caves to Palestinian Arab territorial demands. And if the PA refuses to make a deal, then Israel must give more, and more, and more until they do.
In Friedman's fantasy world, once Israel shows it is "serious," then somehow some magic pressure will appear that will force the PA to respond. Unfortunately this has never happened. In fact, Abbas' position hardened not during Netanyahu's time in office - but during Olmert's!
What is particularly galling is that Friedman, like J-Street, couches his calls for Israel and Israel alone to make concessions as if he is doing it out of love for Israel. This is garbage. If he loves Israel, he needs to wake up and use his bully pulpit to expose the Palestinian Arab intransigence and constant calls to destroy Israel via "return" - a demand that has not changed one bit since 1948. He needs to expose the incitement in Palestinian Arab society. He needs to expose the fact that the PA has not changed its position one bit since 1988 - and brags about it. He needs to point out that previous Israeli creativity to reach a peace agreement was met not with flexibility but with more demands. All of this is well-known, even to a know-it-all like Thomas Friedman.
That's what someone who cares for Israel would do.
UPDATE: The Islamic Jihad newspaper "Palestine Today" loved this column, quoting it extensively. Which is exactly what one would expect them to do with something written by such a concerned friend of Israel, right?