Will Obama Re-Link U.S.-Israel Security Relations With Palestine Peace?

Will Obama Re-Link U.S.-Israel Security Relations With Palestine Peace?
President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, Washington, Nov. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

In the waning months of the Obama administration, the drama of U.S.-Israeli relations driven by personal and policy frictions between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dimmed. The two leaders’ lack of rapport has become irrelevant, as Obama works to demonstrate an unstinting American commitment to Israel’s security. What remains to be seen is to what extent he will emphasize the unfinished business of Palestinian statehood in his remaining time in office.

This month, U.S.-Israeli relations have been back in the news, after being largely absent from the national security preoccupations of the presidential candidates and the public. Israel has been happy to sit out the Syrian crisis and can only contribute on the margins to the struggle against the so-called Islamic State. The recurring drama of personal friction between Obama and Netanyahu, as well as quixotic diplomatic efforts toward a final status peace deal with the Palestinians, have accordingly fallen off the radar.

This week, the president meets with Netanyahu on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, where he will wrap up this fraught relationship and also make his last address to the U.N. There, in 2009, in his first such address, he spoke of a clear goal: “Two states living side by side in peace and security -- a Jewish state of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people.”

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