What Would Shift in Israel's Peace Policy Mean for Obama?

While attending the G-20 conference in London, President Obama called the newly sworn in prime minister to congratulate him and reiterate the U.S. position on the peace process.

Lieberman was a contentious figure well before being named foreign minister. His hardline positions on the peace process and calls during the election to require loyalty oaths from Israeli Arabs, raised the concerns among moderate Palestinians and some members of the international community.

An increasingly sidelined Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that Netanyahu "doesn't believe in peace" and urged the international community to pressure him into accepting a two-state solution.

Lieberman's comments were primarily intended to send a message to his nationalist base and not the international community or President Obama, said Cordesman, adding that Lieberman would have said the same thing regardless of who the American president was.

"Lieberman had to know the kind of reaction he would get," Cordesman said. "He would have made the same comment and gotten the same reaction if John McCain or George W. Bush was president. The two-state solution is a part of U.S. policy, and it is a policy backed by virtually every member of Congress and virtually every Jewish American group, though some have caveats."

Obama has made that widely accepted policy his own policy, repeatedly echoing the position that the U.S. should support a process that provides for Israel security and gives the Palestinians their own state.

"I do believe that we've got to advance a Middle East peace process that not only provides Israel security but also provides a two-state solution in which a Palestinian state and an Israeli state can live side-by-side in peace and security. And I won't -- I don't think those two things are contradictory. I think they're complementary," Obama said while campaigning in September.

In the same years that the Palestinian leadership fractured with Hamas militants taking over Gaza and launching rocket attacks into Israel and moderates ruling in the West Bank, Israel has been consistent -- even under conservative governments -- in its policies regarding a two-state solution and ending Jewish settlement in the Palestinian territories.

Lieberman looks to want to upend the two-state policy and Netanyahu has advocated for overturning a ban on new settlements, both of which could give Obama problems in pursuing his plan for peace.

"Given that in the Mideast it is so easy for things to go off the rails, it is vital that the U.S. and the new Israeli government meet and reach a series of understandings on the road ahead including the settlements issue," said David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"While I think neither side wants to pick a fight, there could be some tension if a common approach is not reached," he said. "The U.S. has committed itself to a two-state solution living side-by-side with security arrangements, and therefore it is important to have a wide-ranging dialogue with the Netanyahu government."

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