In a speech at the U.N. this morning, President Obama made it very clear that the United States — specifically, his administration — does not support the Palestinian effort to achieve recognition as a sovereign state at the United Nations. He's pledged to veto any such resolution, but today asked the General Assembly to not even bring it to a vote. "I am convinced that there is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N. — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now." Instead, the president emphasized that direct Israeli–Palestinian negotiations are the only way forward.
Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine — one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity. And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means — including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.
The president may have evenhandedly name-checked both Israel and Palestine, but it was the "friend of Israel" bit that was most vital politically right now. His speech came close on the heels of Rick Perry's Jewish outreach effort in New York yesterday, where the Texas governor repeated the word appeasement in relation to Obama's Israel policy — it's a word that sets many Jewish voters on edge, of course, and (as John Heilemann explored in this week's cover story) now's not a great time to further alienate that particular demographic. Obama's speech, naturally, not only didn't even glance in the direction of the word appeasement, but was pitched (nearly explicitly) to counteract the perception that Perry's promoting. Still, Jewish voters weren't the only group Obama was concerned with nodding to. The Times reports:
[T]he president who was determined to get on the right side of Arab history ending up, in the views of many on the Arab street, on the wrong side of it on the Palestinian issue.The Arab Spring quandary, in particular, has been enormously troublesome for Mr. Obama. White House officials say that he has long been keenly aware that he, like no other American president, stood as a potential beacon to the Arab street as the ultimate symbol of the hopes and rewards of democracy. But since he is, first and foremost, the president of the United States, he has had to put American interests first.
That's true, of course; and as we get closer and closer to 2012, Obama is putting Obamian interests at a very close second.