The world wants to know if the United States is still a reliable friend to Israel or not.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has created a situation where the special relationship between the United and Israel is being put to the test by asking the United Nations to award official state recognition to his government and the territory it occupies, in effect making an end run around a negotiated settlement in the Middle East.
This creates an even bigger problem for President Barack Obama who, as the results of the recent special election in New York's Ninth Congressional District made plain, has a problem with some Jewish voters. Traditional Democrats going back to Al Smith and FDR, they are suspicious of his intentions toward Israel—and whether or not he can be counted on to back her up in a crisis.
Abbas's petition for recognition is such a crisis. Moreover it is a clarion call for the United States to exercise the kind of moral leadership only it can—but which it is not at all clear that Obama will provide. In earlier times, under presidents of both parties, it was an article of faith that the United States could be counted on, if necessary, to exercise its veto in the U.N. Security Council whenever the security of Israel was threatened.
Under Obama this is not necessarily the case, as there has been no statement announcing a U.S. plan to veto the Abbas petition should it come to a vote, regardless of how many other nations might vote against it.
It's a sticky situation if ever there was one. It has been widely reported that both the United States and Israel had been working to line up enough votes to defeat the plan outright when it comes up for a vote in the Security Council, making the veto unnecessary. In light of Abbas's provocation, and his effort to occupy the moral high ground that some would argue would come with official U.N. recognition of his people as a state, the United States needs to say "No," firmly, clearly and unambiguously. And it needs to do so now.