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Opinion

Opinion: Obama has lost his Middle East peace ambition

The US president made many attempts to convince Israelis and Palestinians to come together. Now he's scheduled to host Israel's prime minister. This time Obama seems to be less optimistic, DW's Miodrag Soric writes.

Change and hope were two of Barack Obama's main campaign messages when he was elected US president back in 2008. It was about making a new start, and that applied to foreign policy, too. After becoming president, Obama wanted to bring peace to the Middle East. He did, in fact, make many attempts to help Israelis and Palestinians try to come to a compromise. But it didn't work.

Nowadays, Obama has become more modest. The president merely hopes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make mention of a two-state solution. At the same time, Obama knows that Israel is building more settlements in the West Bank and that militants have not pledged to stop the violence.

Peace in the Middle East remains a dream, for now at least.

A strained relationship

At least the United States has managed to formalize a nuclear accord with Iran. President Obama deemed the agreement a major success. Prime Minister Netanyahu has done all he can to torpedo it. That didn't help the already tense relations between the Israeli and US leadership. The two politicians seem to have been avoiding each other ever since.

But they are professionals. Obama and Netanyahu are not interested in arguing with each other in public. They are, instead, playing for time. Obama will be in office for just one more year. In this period there will be no change in US policy on the Middle East.

Netanyahu doesn't want to waste this time though. After all, Obama did refer to the importance of Israel's security during the negotiations with Iran, and Netanyahu is likely to remind him of that. Netanyahu would like to keep a billion-dollar security partnership between the United States and Israel going, too: A memorandum of understanding to this end expires in 2018. The prime minister would like to get a similar agreement that goes for 10 years. That would help finance and modernize Israel's army.

Obama has a real balancing act ahead of him. For domestic reasons, he has to agree to Israel's demands for new weaponry. But he can't agree to everything. Other US partners in the region - Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan among them - also have security concerns. The White House needs to respect these wishes.

The president's failure in the Middle East peace process has disappointed many people in Washington. Meanwhile, the situation has gotten worse in Syria, Iraq and other countries. The price of oil is also low.

For all these reasons, Washington's interest in the Middle East is starting to decrease. It is now more lucrative for the United States to look toward East Asia, including countries such as China and Korea. That is where the money can be made. But getting involved in conflict in the Middle East? That just costs money.

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