Writing for both Newsweek and The Daily Beast, Peter Beinart used a surprising phrase to describe how President Obama plans to deal with the Israel/Palestine issue during his second term.
Beinart took his clue from the "pro forma and bland" response the White House made after Israel's defiant announcement that it would build 3,000 new housing units in a area of the West Bank known as E1.
The announcement came just days after the U.N. elevated Palestine to a non-member state status. Some of those Palestinians are shown here, standing in a long line waiting to gain admission to visit Jerusalem during Ramadan.
Obama made no personal comment regarding the new E1 housing, not even the customary "the action is not helpful" reaction. What Beinart learned from "senior administration officials" was that this bland response was the "first sign" of what "may be a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Obama's second term: benign neglect.
There should be little doubt that President Obama is well aware of his responsibility to manage and improve Israel-Palestine relations. Repeatedly, in his first term, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was disdainful of the American president, often playing his "additional housing permits" card on Palestinian West Bank land, as a show of defiance.
"Benign neglect" will not be the policy of a president who has just won an election that returned him to the White House for the next four years.
The President's problem with the Israel Lobby is another matter altogether. Obama will need to deal with the Congress on issues large and small.
He will be unable to make appointments if he cannot overcome the opposition from his opponents in Congress. Most of those opponents are Republicans, but in matters that concern Israel, he must also contend with pro-Israel members of Congress within his own party.
The Lobby is losing clout with the younger Jewish generation, as the Holocaust, long utilized as a tool of persuasion, fades into history. However, the Israel Lobby as a political power remains a strong presence to members of the U.S. Congress, where senators and representatives have "grown accustomed to the faces" of their friendly AIPAC financial backers at two- and six-year intervals.
The power will be tested immediately as Obama names a new cabinet for his second term, all of whom will require Senate approval.
The President lost the opening round of the cabinet battle when Republican senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, and Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, threatened an extended fight over the nomination of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.
That setback, in this case, was related not to the Jewish Lobby, but to the desire of the Republicans to continue to show their displeasure over the initial reports of the deaths of U.S. Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other State Department officials.
Ambassador Rice withdrew her name from consideration, even though it was clear that she had merely repeated the information to the media, which she has received from U.S. intelligence sources.
Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, became the strong favorite to succeed Hillary Clinton. He should have no difficulty winning the support of the Senate, a body in which he has long been a member.
The Israel Lobby, however, will most certainly come into play in the appointment of a new Secretary of Defense, if the President appoints and asks for approval of the former two-term Republican Senator from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel. (shown here).