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Analysis: The hot winds of change in the Middle East will present a challenge for what is shaping up to be a crucial policy speech.
Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel is not expecting any surprises in the speech and quelled rumors in Israel that Obama would call on Israel to return to its 1967 borders and take part in a peace plan that will divide Jerusalem. He also said that it was his understanding that only a small portion of the speech would be devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As Oren wrote in Foreign Policy, Israel sees this moment as proof that Israel is an indispensable ally in a volatile region at a time of great uncertainty.
But even if that is true, the Israeli-Palestinian issue looms over all American policy in the region particularly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poised to speak before the U.S. Congress next week. And a shadow has been cast over the process with the news that the U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell was resigning after failing to create a breakthrough in peace negotiations, which have settled into a bitter and resentful stalemate that constantly threatens to break out into violent conflict.
And so there is much at stake in this speech. It offers a moment for an American president to define a new way forward amid breathtaking events in the Middle East.
But it also comes with the risk that the president will fall back to a status quo that the Arab world has made loud and clear is no longer tolerable.
These cross currents create a dangerous wind shear as Obama tries to land his message. So tray tables up. Turn off all electronic devices. And keep your seatbelts securely fastened.