Bibi is serious about peace

Bibi is serious about peace

Of all the things Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said throughout his long political career, this one quote of his from the Jerusalem Post Wednesday strikes us as especially enlightening:
“There are many obstacles on the road to peace,” the prime minister was quoted as saying. “There are many skeptics. There is one way to prove them right. That is not to try [to make peace].”
Perhaps that’s why Bibi announced this week that he has accepted an invitation from French President Nicholas Sarkozy to meet in Paris next month with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. As of this writing, Abbas himself has not accepted the invitation.
But Israel’s acceptance is telling.
Historically, Israel’s prime ministers have been loathe to shift peace talks — the face-to-face variety — away from Middle Eastern or American venues, and were especially suspicious of giving European leaders a greater role in the process.
That has now changed. And we think it demonstrates that Netanyahu’s commitment to a lasting peace is real.
It’s certainly not an act of political self-preservation. The closer Netanyahu moves toward some kind of agreement on final status issues — Jerusalem, borders, settlements, right of return — the more he will enrage his own powerbase within the Likud party.
It is an act of political shrewdness (If Bibi shows up for peace talks in Paris and Abbas doesn’t, who’s the real obstacle?) but that still doesn’t help the PM with his supporters back home.
So when Bibi says he is committed to making peace with the Palestinians, as he did Wednesday following a meeting in Caesarea with U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, he should be believed. This is not the same hard-line Netanyahu of the 1990s.
Does that mean he would give away the shop at the bargaining table? We seriously doubt that. This is a prime minister that knows how to play hardball. The Jewish world would do well to sit back and see what he can achieve.