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Obama’s Chance for Middle East Peace

Barack Obama still has time to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he promised to do when he came to office in 2009. There is a long history of US presidents launching bold diplomatic initiatives during their last months, when they can focus on results instead of politics.

STOCKHOLM – Next year marks the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, the British statement that paved the way for Israel’s founding in 1948, and for the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the larger Arab world, that continues today.

World leaders gathering in New York for the United Nations General Assembly probably won’t have time to discuss this perennial political challenge. But, despite all of the Middle East’s other – and seemingly bigger – problems, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the lynchpin issue that will determine whether the region’s future will be one of peace and prosperity.

The conflict – whether it is resolved or not – will also help define US President Barack Obama’s foreign-policy legacy. As Obama’s second term nears its end, it is worth recalling that when he came to office in 2009, he sought rapprochement with the wider Muslim world. In his historic Cairo speech in June of that year, he described the Palestinians’ situation as “intolerable” and promised to pursue – “with all the patience and dedication that the task requires” – a policy of “two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.”

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