The Second-Term Illusion: Or, Why Barack Won't Be Beating Up on Bibi Next Year

(Foreign Policy) Aaron David Miller - According to popular legend, an American president, unshackled by the politics of reelection, is more willing and able to do forceful Arab-Israeli diplomacy (read: pressure on Israel) during a second term. History tells a different and more grounded tale. Most of the toughest diplomacy, particularly with the Israelis, occurred in a president's first term, not the second. Of all the second-term diplomacy undertaken by various American presidents, none really fits the model of the empowered, tough-minded two-termer. With Israel and now America focused so much on the mullahs' putative nuclear capacity, it's hard to see how any Israeli prime minister would make any concessions on peace with the Palestinians until the Iran situation were much clearer. Add to that the southward-bound direction of the Israeli-Egyptian relationship and you have 1,001 reasons to avoid decisions on the Palestinian issue. Remember, for a two-term president, legacy cuts both ways: You want to be remembered as the hero, not the goat, and that means leaving a vapor trail of kudos, not stumbles, let alone outright failures. And going all out on Arab-Israeli peace when the conditions just aren't there has failure written all over it.

2012-04-12 00:00:00

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