War with Iran? 5 ways events overseas could shape Obama's second term.

The threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program is the most urgent example of the foreign-policy challenges that face President Obama in his second term. Here are four others.

5. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/File
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens as President Obama speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on March 5, 2012.

An optimistic – perhaps naïve – young president kicked off his first term by announcing with great White House fanfare his first week in office a priority on reaching the holy grail of US diplomacy: a peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians. Don’t expect a similar initiative week one of Term 2.

The Obama administration is already promising punitive measures against the Palestinians if President Mahmoud Abbas sticks with his plan to seek enhanced status for “Palestine” through the United Nations General Assembly in late November. Besides that, an Israeli election campaign that culminates with voting Jan. 22, the day after Obama’s inauguration, is hardly the moment for a peace-process initiative.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to win those elections. But a renewed mandate for the Israeli leader, far from opening the way to negotiations with the Palestinians, is more frequently seen as providing a mandate for Mr. Netanyahu to launch air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities later in the year if he deems it necessary.

If, as expected, the Israeli leader is triumphant in elections, Netanyahu and Obama – who haven’t had the smoothest of relations – are likely to face new tensions in their relationship. And US-Israel relations, which both leaders insist are unbreakable, could be in for a severe test about what to do with Iran.

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“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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