Obama’s Promised Land

President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Israel carries unexpected implications for US foreign policy. Rather than providing the foreign-policy breakthrough for which many had hoped, the trip reflected Obama's hope to quiet critics and allay Israeli security fears, in order to focus on domestic goals.

MADRID – Now that the dust has settled on President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated trip to Israel, it is possible to analyze the significance of the visit. The trip – the first foreign visit of his second term – carries important implications for US foreign policy. Rather than providing the breakthrough for which many had hoped, it demonstrated that Obama – unlike other second-term US presidents, who have staked their legacies on foreign policy – is interested primarily in securing a domestic legacy.

Obama’s ambitions are centered on reversing the arrangement that has dominated US politics since Richard Nixon’s election in 1968. He hopes to ensure that a moderate Democratic Party forms the core of domestic politics and policymaking, with the Republican Party consigned to the periphery.

The centerpiece of Obama’s visit was his address in Jerusalem, in which – employing his characteristically compelling rhetoric – he won over the skeptical Israeli public by appealing to their sense of morality, asking them to imagine the conflict from a Palestinian perspective. And yet, while the speech was widely considered a successful exercise in public diplomacy, it did not herald renewed US involvement in peace negotiations. Rather, it portends a continuation of America’s hands-off approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

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