When's the last time the world was in awe of Israel? When Jews and people of all stripes could stand with unambiguous pride in their support of the Jewish state?
I would say that moment came exactly 34 years ago, on July 4, 1976, when Israeli commandos rescued 105 hostages at the Entebbe airport in Uganda, in the heart of Africa. About a week earlier, four terrorists had hijacked an Air France Airbus and forced it to land in Uganda. They demanded that 53 convicted terrorists be freed from Israeli jails, but Israel would have none of it. They bought time by pretending to negotiate, but secretly planned a high-risk rescue mission.
Two minutes before midnight on July 3, the Israeli commandos rescued the hostages, except for two who were killed in the crossfire. Israel rode a wave of global popularity. The Israeli mission was so heroic and just -- so right -- that it garnered support from every corner of the world. In the raid, one Israeli commando was killed -- Yonatan Netanyahu, the brother of the Israeli Prime Minister.
This week, when he meets with President Obama at the White House, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a chance to replicate the boldness of his brother's mission. He'll have a chance to impress and shock the world -- a world that has become used to routinely criticizing and condemning Israel.
To do that, Netanyahu will have to address, once and for all, the world's obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- a conflict that has become a suffocating albatross around Israel's neck. Never mind that most Israelis would love nothing better than to end the conflict with a partner that can deliver peace. As far as the world is concerned, Israel is the occupier, and as the occupier, it holds the greater responsibility for ending the conflict.
We can moan about the unfairness of this reality, but it's still the reality.
Unfortunately, Israel has done everything to reinforce this reality. By being bold with its military and timid with its diplomacy, it has added to the perception of a party that is not ready to end the conflict. Every diplomatic step has been grudging and in response to pressure from the U.S. When Netanyahu boldly calls for a negotiated solution and for direct talks, few people take him seriously.
Simply put, that's because words don't have the power of commitments.
What Bibi needs to do now to shock the world is present a peace plan. He should do so with the boldness and precision of a military operation. He should dust off the universally popular Clinton Parameters, sign his name at the bottom, and leave a space for Mahmoud Abbas's signature.
And he should do this as early as Tuesday, when he visits the White House.
This shocking diplomatic "ambush" will declare to the world, in writing, Israel's ironclad commitment to peace and to ending the conflict. It will demonstrate how much Israel wants peace. And let's face it, it's not as if the parties need more negotiations. Everyone knows that Israel and the Palestinians have spent thousands of hours over the past 20 years haggling over the tiniest details of a peace deal. All parties know what it will take.
If Bibi's bold move brings down his government and he loses his job, well, that's the life of the hero. Let him fall on his sword for his country. Let him sacrifice his position for the greater good, like his brother sacrificed his life.
In exchange for his job, (and it's not clear he would lose it -- he might survive with a new coalition), just imagine the extraordinary rewards for Israel. Imagine the reaction at the White House and throughout the world to an Israel that has gone "all in" for peace. Even if nothing comes of it, even if Palestinians wiggle out and find a way to still blame Israel, even if extremists sabotage the plan, just ask yourself: Can things be any worse diplomatically for Israel than they are now? Does Israel -- this remarkable little country -- deserve to be so isolated on the world stage?
All Bibi has to do is offer what Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton offered years ago, which is already less than what Olmert offered two years ago. If the cynics are right that Abbas has neither the power nor the inclination to sign an "end of conflict" agreement, a peace initiative will surely smoke him out.
Right now, Bibi is just sitting on the fence and taking it from all sides. He's playing the game of peace, but it's obvious his heart isn't in it.
The truth is, no matter how one feels about the presence or absence of a Palestinian "peace partner," it's too late to convince the world to get off the peace train. That train has left the station. The hard-nosed realists have lost the argument, for now. My point is simply this: If you're going to be in the peace game, why not act like a hero? Why not take the initiative and lead the process, rather than have third parties ram a bad deal down your throat?
At the very least, an Israeli peace initiative will enable Israel to put the Iranian nuclear threat squarely on the agenda, instead of having to constantly deal with issues like apartment permits in East Jerusalem and whether coriander should be allowed into Gaza.
Iranian nukes threatening the existence of Israel -- remember that one? I have no doubt that if Yonatan Netanyahu were alive today, he'd be right on top of it.