If the State of the Union address accurately indicated President Barack Obama’s focus for his final year in office, Israel should get a clear message: You’re on your own.
The president’s speech stretched for more than 6,000 words. He found ample time to chastise and mock Republican presidential candidates, call for a noble if nonsensical “moon shot” to cure cancer, fret but not obsess about the instability in the Middle East, prematurely gloat about the diplomatic progress with Iran (so far, so good doesn’t mean much six months into a deal meant to last 15 years or longer), boast about the drop in oil imports without citing the No. 1 reason (the rapid growth in fracking to tap domestic oil and natural gas reserves), downplay the threat of Islamic State while denying that the terrorist organization has any connection to Islam, and accurately declare that the United States is the most powerful nation on Earth, and “it’s not even close.”
That’s three more times than he said “Israel.”
To be sure, the president was under no obligation to mention the United States’ strongest ally in a region he pointed to as a center of global danger.
He didn’t mention Saudi Arabia or Egypt, Turkey or Libya, Jordan or Lebanon, Kuwait or any of the other Arab emirates. He didn’t bring up the Palestinians or their quest for statehood.
The greatest humanitarian disaster of his presidency, the civil war in Syria, was worth only three mentions, just one of which had anything to do with ending the chaos and killing. The only reference to the refugee crisis Syria has helped create was just an effort to criticize the carpet-bombing strategy of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.
Even Iran, the signature foreign policy achievement of this administration, received only two sentences.
Still, we shouldn’t ignore Obama’s message, one that administration officials have sent since the fall: This president is done with Israel and its Palestinian problem.
There will be no 11th-hour push for peace as President Bill Clinton made at the end of his second term. Secretary of State John Kerry will not again throw himself into shuttle diplomacy to bring together hostile governments that want nothing to do with each other.
His carrot-and-stick efforts to play peacemaker between the Jordan and the Mediterranean have given Obama only political grief and done nothing to secure his legacy for the history books, which always tops the agenda in the eighth year of a presidency.
So until someone new occupies the Oval Office a year from now, Israel and her supporters should expect nothing but the status quo from Washington. Despite the president’s declarations about the U.S. role as the world’s leader, the United States will neither take strong diplomatic stands in support of Israel (risking the anger of European allies needed to fight terrorism and seek a Syrian solution) nor abandon Israel and take up the Palestinian cause (risking the Democratic edge among Jewish voters and donors in November’s elections). Israel will receive continued military aid but not even meaningful words about the daily terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
Only the Israelis and Palestinians can make the leap of faith toward a two-state solution and avoid suffering another year without peace or security.