Worried, wary and weary
President Obama's goodwill trip to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan requires a delicate balancing act, juggling mutual strategic support and moral interests. Local reactions range from being worried to wary to weary. The agenda will focus on Iraq, the Arab Spring, Syria and regional unrest, with symbolic stops including a return visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and a photo-op tour of an "Iron Dome" anti-missile battery. Dinner meetings with Israeli President Shimon Perez and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an open forum for university students will be followed-up by talks with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah and King Abdullah in Jordan.
A decade since the US invasion of Iraq, and a year after the departure of most American troops, Iraq may be labelled sovereign, but it is far from safe, secure or stable. The entire Middle East is struggling for survival. Israel has become increasingly isolated due to its obstructionist policies and unwillingness to comply with United Nations mandates to cease illegal settlement territorial expansion. Netanyahu faces myriad challenges and confrontations on contentious domestic and foreign issues, with his wounded right- and left-wing coalition of hawks, doves and buzzards yielding significant leverage and pressure to change the stale old guard for fresh new reformers.
Central issues taking the domestic and global spotlight range from moribund peace talks and Jerusalem as a shared capital to hard-line military service for all citizens. Obama must be careful not to trip over expectations while encouraging future high-wire hopes without a taken-for-granted saggy safety net. Pax vobiscum - peace be with you!