US President Barack Obama is set to launch a broad offensive against critics of his foreign policy on Wednesday, in an address at West Point that would attempt to define America’s changing role in the world.
But while nuclear proliferation in Iran, chemical weapons use in Syria and the erasure of borderlands in Ukraine will all be discussed as part of a broader strategy, Obama does not plan on discussing the Middle East peace process, sources told The Jerusalem Post.
That decision marks a departure for this president: in the past year, Obama instructed US Secretary of State John Kerry to prioritize peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and has referred to such a peace as one of his two greatest foreign policy goals.
“In the near term, America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Obama told the United Nations General Assembly last September, as he outlined US foreign policy priorities “during the remainder of my presidency.”
“Real breakthroughs on these two issues – Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli-Palestinian peace – would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa,” he said.
Eight months later, Obama’s choice to completely omit the topic reflects how poorly negotiations went between the two sides over the course of nine months.
Those talks, brokered by the United States, ended last month with Israel announcing settlement plans in the West Bank and with the Palestinian Authority declaring its intention to form a unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization according to the US and the European Union.
The speech comes as Obama looks toward the end of his presidency, two-and-a-half years away, with a foreign policy doctrine still undefined.
“He will lay out why the right policy is one that is both interventionist and internationalist, but not isolationist or unilateral,” one senior administration official said, previewing the speech. “You will hear the president discuss how the United States will use all the tools in our arsenal without over-reaching.”
Obama’s second major foreign policy priority as laid out in September – Iran – has been allotted substantial space in the speech.
The president plans to tie Ukraine, Iran and Syria to a common American goal: the maintenance of global order and postwar international norms, enforced, historically, by the United States.
"The United State is the only nation capable of galvanizing action," the official said. "The president will explain why we need to put that to use in an international system that is sustainable and enduring."