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New York Times op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman, writing in the March 12, 2013, edition of the The Times, argues that, the “most important thing” U.S. president  Barack Obama (pictured below) could do on his upcoming trip to Israel “is to publicly and privately ask every Israeli official he meets these questions:

Please tell me how your relentless settlement drive in the West Bank does not end up with Israel embedded there — forever ruling over 2.5 million Palestinians with a President_Barack_Obamacolonial-like administration that can only undermine Israel as a Jewish democracy and delegitimize Israel in the world community? I understand why Palestinian dysfunction and the Arab awakening make you wary, but still. Shouldn’t you be constantly testing and testing whether there is a Palestinian partner for a secure peace? After all, you have a huge interest in trying to midwife a decent West Bank Palestinian state that is modern, multireligious and pro-Western — a totally different model from the Muslim Brotherhood variants around you. Everyone is focused on me and what will I do. But, as a friend, I just want to know one thing: What is your long-term strategy? Do you even have one?”

Mr. Friedman said, “The most destabilizing conflict in the region is the civil war between Shiites and Sunnis that is rocking Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and Yemen,” not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He said, “While it would be a good thing to erect a Palestinian state at peace with Israel, the issue today is will there be anymore a Syrian state, a Libyan state and an Egyptian state.”

If you want to read the entire article, please see “Mr. Obama Goes to Israel.”

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AIPAC’s Israel Agenda For President Obama

Nathan Guttman contends in a March 3, 2013, article in The Jewish Daily Forward  that, “As President Obama prepares for his upcoming Mideast trip, [he] can get a good sense of Israeli expectations by listening in to speeches and conversations at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference.” See “AIPAC Offers Clues to Barack Obama as He Heads to Israel.” Mr. Guttman added:

The message is crystal clear: topping the agenda are the nuclear threat posed by Iran and turmoil in Syria and in other neighboring countries. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not even part of the lobby’s legislative agenda this year and in speeches the emphasis was placed on the relatively narrow issue of demanding the Palestinian return to negotiations without preconditions.
Regardless, it should be on Mr. Obama’s agenda. Every political upheaval occurring in Arab countries in North Africa and the Middle East is a daily reminder of what can happen in situations that appear hopeless. For one Palestinian perspective, see “Hamas chief evokes Arab Spring in push to lead all Palestinians”.
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[Editor’s Note: Below are the major points of a foreign policy address that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in photo below, delivered on February 20, 2013, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. The university was founded by Thomas Jefferson, the U.S’ first secretary of state and the fourth U.S. president. Mr. Kerry’s response to his introduction by Senator Tim Kaine has been omitted along with his recognition of several persons and organizations in the audience. The entire speech can be found on the State Department website, the source of this excerpt.) 

Why Kerry Delivered Speech at University of Virginia

Some might ask why I’m standing here at the University of Virginia, why am I starting here? A Secretary of State making his first speech in the United States? You might ask, “Doesn’t diplomacy happen over there, overseas, far beyond the boundaries of our own backyards?”

Secretary of State John KerrySo why is it that I am at the foot of the Blue Ridge instead of on the shores of the Black Sea? Why am I in Old Cabell Hall and not Kabul, Afghanistan? (Laughter.)

The reason is very simple. I came here purposefully to underscore that in today’s global world, there is no longer anything foreign about foreign policy. More than ever before, the decisions that we make from the safety of our shores don’t just ripple outward; they also create a current right here in America. How we conduct our foreign policy matters more than ever before to our everyday lives, to the opportunities of all those students I met standing outside, whatever year they are here, thinking about the future. It’s important not just in terms of the threats that we face, but the products that we buy, the goods that we sell, and the opportunity that we provide for economic growth and vitality. It’s not just about whether we’ll be compelled to send our troops to another battle, but whether we’ll be able to send our graduates into a thriving workforce. That’s why I’m here today.

I’m here because our lives as Americans are more intertwined than ever before with the lives of people in parts of the world that we may have never visited. In the global challenges of diplomacy, development, economic security, environmental security, you will feel our success or failure just as strongly as those people in those other countries that you’ll never meet. For all that we have gained in the 21st century, we have lost the luxury of just looking inward. Instead, we look out and we see a new field of competitors. I think it gives us much reason to hope. But it also gives us many more rivals determined to create jobs and opportunities for their own people, a voracious marketplace that sometimes forgets morality and values.

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For Obama, Afghanistan ‘Adds Up to a Pretty Ominous Picture in 2010’

While Denis Staunton, foreign editor of The Irish Times, thinks “much disillusionment” with U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy “is born of unrealistic expectations,” Irish Times Foreign Affairs Correspondent Mary Fitzgerald thinks the U.S. military involvement in in Afghanistan and Pakistan “all adds up to a pretty ominous picture for 2010 – a year few doubt will prove a defining moment for the now firmly entwined fortunes of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and one newly garlanded Nobel Peace laureate.” See Fitzgerald’s December 29, 2009, post headlined “Ghosts of failed empires could emerge from 'graveyard' to haunt US president.”

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Obama's Foreign Policy Decisions Loom Large Outside U.S.

“To those examining [U.S. President Barack] Obama's performance from outside the United States, it is understandably the foreign policy-related decisions which loom largest in his first-year record,” according to an editorial in the December 26, 2009, Sydney Morning Herald of Australia. The publication adds:

The decision to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay - though drawn out and delayed - has ended a stain on the US human rights record. Washington's re-engagement with the rest of the world and its renewed acceptance of the multilateral architecture of diplomacy, ending George W. Bush's unilateralism, has been welcomed in Western countries with almost childlike eagerness. The premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize is a measure of that. In his acceptance speech Obama conceded as much, and acknowledged the irony of being a recipient who had just ordered more troops to war in Afghanistan.
The Herald said, “Equally significant, though, was his reassertion of the United States' renewed desire to lead not only by authority and power, but by example.”

If you want to read the entire editorial, please see “After Obama's first year, things can only get better.”

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Obama’s Fears About the Cost of the Afghan War

The Los Angeles Times’ Doyle McManus, writing in a December 2, 2009, analysis of President Barack Obama’s December 1, 2009, address to the world about the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, makes this revelation:

Over lunch in the White House library a few hours before the speech, Obama spoke passionately to a small group of journalists about his fears that the cost of the war could obstruct his ambitious domestic agenda the way the Vietnam War wrecked Lyndon Johnson's programs.


"I am painfully clear that this is politically unpopular, precisely because the American people are rightly focused on how do we rebuild America," he said. "I would prefer not having to deal with two wars right now, because we've got a lot of other business we've got to do.”

“I'm interested in nation-building here in the United States right now," he said. "We cannot afford another trillion dollars" in war spending.”

Mr. McManus added: “And he sounded understandably frustrated by his choices in Afghanistan. "None of this is easy," he said. "We are choosing from a menu of options that are less than ideal."

For more, please see “Obama's Afghanistan strategy counts on time as an ally.”

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