The prospect of diplomacy in Iran and Syria has overshadowed tenuous progress in recent months in restarting direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Talks resumed this summer after months of prodding by Kerry, but the prospect of a resolution on issues that have long had the Israelis and Palestinians at odds remain as slim as ever.
Palestinian leaders, frustrated by the stalemate, have taken their case in recent years to the United Nations, where there is broad support for their bid for statehood. While the U.S. supports Palestinian statehood, it says that status can only be achieved through direct negotiations with the Israelis.
That's put Obama in the awkward position of arguing against Palestinian efforts during his previous trips to the U.N. American opposition stymied Palestinian efforts to become full U.N. members in 2011, but the Palestinians succeeded in a bid to gain implicit statehood recognition last year.
The 2012 measure passed overwhelmingly, with the U.S. and just a handful of other nations voting no.