President Obama has led from behind on nearly every major foreign policy issue except Israel-Palestine. But now, according to Peter Beinart, Obama plans to lead from behind in that area too. Specifically, says Beinart, Obama will be little involved with the “peace process,” and instead will sit back and watch pressure mount on Israel from the “international community.” Faced with international isolation, Netanyahu supposedly will shift course and embrace the kind of Palestinian state supported by his predecessor, Ehud Olmert.
I don’t consider Beinart very astute, and I see no reason to credit his account of the Obama administration’s plans. I hope he’s right about this, though. Neither Netanyahu nor the Israeli public has any respect for European opinion. Their respect for Obama’s opinion is almost as low by now, but it is not so easily ignored. If Obama stands aside, there will be no real pressure on Netanyahu, and he can continue, unconstrained, to serve the interests of those who will have reelected him.
In other words, if Obama wants to lead with respect to Israel’s relationship with Palestinian, he can only do so from the front, as he has tried to do. And I suspect it won’t be long before he’s hectoring Netanyahu again on behalf of Palestinian interests.