Obama Israel Policy: No Change Of Course in Sight

The Obama administration has yet to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority, and there has been no strong indication the President intends on changing course. President Obama is currently focused on the immediate instability of the region, focusing instead on the escalating conflict in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program, and the turmoil in Egypt. The president can simply not afford to make the on-going Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority in light of these more impending dangers, not only to the region but globally.

The United States and Israel have a "special relationship" built on similar values, common interests, and mutual enemies. As a result, the United States has intervened in conflicts on numerous occasions on behalf of Israel and annually supplies Israel with financial, military and technical assistance to defend against Palestinian attacks. According to an article published in 2006, Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign military and financial assistance since 1976, receiving over $140 billion total and approximately $3 billion annually. The United States has continuously supported Israel’s agenda since May 14, 1948 with little deviation, and Obama is unlikely to adopt a new approach.     

The appointment of John Kerry as secretary of state, however, has led many to believe the Obama Administration is shifting toward prioritizing a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kerry, the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is a strong supporter of Israel. Close associates and staffers claim Secretary Kerry is determined to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making it his landmark diplomatic act, much like how Henry Kissinger opened the doors to China for Nixon in 1972. However, it seems Mr. Kerry has failed to inform the President of his historic plans to bring peace to the Middle East.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to visit Israel for the first time as President in late March to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders. However, the visit is likely lip service to ongoing resolution efforts, with no real sense of urgency or a change in direction to foreign policy. So long as the turmoil caused by the Arab Spring continues and Iran’s plan for a nuclear weapon proceeds, Obama is not likely to adopt Secretary Kerry’s vision of bringing the decades-old conflict to an end. And while Obama has offered new insight into the age-old conflict, the proposal is dead in the water, since Israel isn’t willing to surrender more land to the Palestinians. The conflict hasn’t changed and neither does the position of either party.  Therefore, Obama is not likely to succeed where his predecessors have failed.