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American Resolve For Middle East Peace Must Be On President Obama’s Agenda

January 23, 2013

There has never been a time since the creation of Israel that the United States did not have a stake in the Middle East.  Beyond the economic need for oil, or the larger international power plays during the Cold War there has always been the close bond between the two countries.

It is hard to say if there is any more reason this week than last for hope at gaining at securing a two state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.  The just concluded election in Israel might have opened a door, as slim as that might be, given the limited views of  Yair Lapid regarding international politics, and his seeming frustration with Arabs.

Lapid was the star of this election cycle, and while he is moderate on social and economic issues has all but stated that peace with Arabs is mostly a concern so that Israel can look good in the eyes of the West.  Not exactly the high-minded thinking one hopes from a politician, but one takes what one can get.

The new coalition government will be formed, but the key will be in the details as to how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can fashion the slim numbers he can play with into something that can actually govern.

Which leads me to President Obama.

While his administration has spent time and energy on Asia, and can correctly make a strong case as to why our future economic and military ties are essential in that region of the world there is no getting around the fact that nothing matches the needs of the Middle East.  While it is true that decades of Middle East diplomatic activity does not seem to add up to diplomatic piles of success there is another truth about the region.  If the United States does not pay attention to the needs of the region, the headlines created in our absence will draw us back again.

The only thing that works in the Middle East is international pressure, led by the United States.  Without some strong guidance, leverage, and arm-twisting no one thinks that Netanyahu will be able to see his way to a negotiating table.   The essential ingredient in the always heated and fragile mix of Middle East politics and diplomacy is an American president willing to roll up his sleeves, spend some political capital, and get down to business.

It is easy to be frustrated with the Middle East, angry at Israel, and confused by the needs of the Palestinians,  But that thinking can only be allowed in coffee shops where newspaper readers gather to solve the world’s problems.  In the places of power there needs to be a re-commitment to the a two state solution, and perhaps now with Netanyahu in a less comfortable political position he might be more willing to play ball.

If Israel really wants to look good for the West lets give them another opportunity.

President Obama needs to place Middle East peace near the top of his agenda.

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