We Can Handle the Truth

"I decided I could no longer continue to fool myself," claimed former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his recently-released memoirs, addressing an ideological shift accounting for the disparity between his public support for a united Jerusalem and eventual willingness to concede dividing the city during closed-door negotiations.

He may have been fooling himself, but in doing so, he was also fooling all of us. And by obscuring what he really stood for, he made it all-the-more difficult to make meaningful progress toward finally achieving peace.

Unfortunately, this kind of obfuscation is all-too-common when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Just recently President Obama vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction in occupied territory -- a resolution whose language was based largely on existing American positions on the subject.

"We agree with our fellow Council members -- and indeed, with the wider world -- about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity," asserted U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice in the very remarks that served to veto the measure. What meaning is the international community to draw from that?

If President Obama is favor of settlements, he should tell us so. If he is against them, he should not block measures to censure them. When his words say one thing and his actions say another, it makes it impossible for us to know what he really thinks. This is not constructive way to make peace.

President Obama: tell us the truth, in plain terms. Where do you stand? What, if anything, do you plan to do to bring this conflict to a close? In the absence of a serious negotiations process, clarity from you is essential.

The same should be asked of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, two years into his present term, has yet to be forthcoming about his peace principles. In his tone-setting foreign policy address at Bar Ilan University in 2009 he expressed his willingness to support a two-state solution. But we have yet to see him take meaningful steps toward realizing it.

It is not just that he has not put forward a map -- or detailed plan of any kind -- indicating what in his vision, such a solution would look like. It is that he has persisted in taking measures that are patently counterproductive. So what are we to believe, his words or his actions?

If there is a lesson for President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu to draw from the uprisings in the Arab world, it is this: at the end of the day, people will not tolerate lies. We can handle the truth from our leaders. We will demand it.

Equivocation may win elections, but it is no way to wield power. When our leaders carry on a diplomatic dance that accommodates sensitivities but hides their real positions on the complicated issues at hand, they serve only to delay progress in solving them.