As President Mahmoud Abbas presented his bid for a Palestinian state after his address to the U.N. General Assembly last Friday, members of the Palestinian Authority warned that “US President Barack Obama will be held responsible for the failure of the Middle East peace process.” Of the 15 member states of the Security Council, Abbas would need to garner nine. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported September 20 that Abbas had secured six to seven votes.
The repercussions of a U.S. veto would negatively affect the Obama Administration—not only in the view of the Palestinians, but also in overall perception of Obama’s peacemaking efforts. Heritage’s James Carafano and Kim Holmes have laid out four important points of the Obama Doctrine, and two stand out when dealing with the Middle East:
“America will adopt a more humble attitude in state-to-state relations.” In Obama’s address in Cairo in 2009, he said, “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” In perhaps a more controversial moment, Obama bowed to Saudi King Abdullah at the G20 summit in 2009. However, is this deferential “leadership from behind” really the right strategy in dealing with the Middle East?
“America will play a more restrained role on the international stage.” President Obama attempts to actively soften the perception held by many abroad that America is overly eager to dirty its hands in other state’s affairs. Instead, Obama wants America to be perceived as “accommodat[ing] and ambivalen[t].” Carafano and Holmes go on to say that when American Presidents exude this kind of behavior, “they get taken advantage of.”
The results of this ambivalence were evident on the world stage at the United Nations. Despite all of Obama’s reaching out to Arab and Muslim countries with accommodating talk and efforts to distance his Administration from Israel, the “blame America first” reflex remains, as members of the Palestinian Authority made clear. Meanwhile, effigies of Obama were already burning in the West Bank, and Abbas has called for a “Palestinian Spring.” Instead of strengthening ties with the only democratic state in the Middle East—Israel—while seeking to broker a genuine and lasting peace, Obama has effectively weakened American influence on both sides, and weakness invites provocation.
Val Jensen II is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm