What could account for such an attitude, given the timorous approach to the rest of the region? Part of it is understandable frustration with years of Israeli-Palestinian impasse, which is magnified by the conviction in much of official Washington that the terms for peace are well known and widely accepted, and need only be implemented. Part is legitimate worry that the Israeli-Palestinian front, though quiet now, could explode later this year after a United Nations vote, helping extremists in places such as Egypt. Yet the damage to U.S. interests from a U.N. resolution on Palestine would pale compared to the consequences of an Iranian-backed victory by Assad in Syria or the failure of NATO in Libya. Those crises have not moved Obama to lead.
There is, in his diplomacy, an implicit conviction that the United States must first of all deal with the sins of its own client. “Here are the facts we must all confront,” Obama declared in his speech to the AIPAC conference last month, before proceeding to deliver a lecture about Palestinian demography, Arab politics and the United Nations. It wasn’t that he was entirely wrong. But it’s revealing of this president that he is determined to speak truth to Binyamin Netanyahu — and not to Bashar al-Assad.