Confronted with a mounting economic crisis at home and weary from seven years, thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the War on Terror, the American electorate choose the domestic-focused candidate of change over the internationally-fixated security candidate last month. Turning their focus squarely on the home front and the myriad challenges facing the heartland, voters turned a deaf ear to John McCains warning that America could not avoid the threats posed by a violent and often chaotic world merely by withdrawing from it. While she might abandon the fields of battle, dispense with occupation and nation-building, recall her soldiers and Marines, and even forgo the unilateral defense of her national interests, neither threats to her national security nor adversaries and ill-wishers would vanish magically into the ether. Walking in the footsteps of Cassandra, McCain was roundly ignored and soundly defeated; America had had her fill of the world and would tend to her own now. Now a mere twenty days till the candidate of change takes the Oath of Office, while Americans may share Bobby Vintons old desire to make the world go away, recent headlines as well as little noticed events indicate it will do anything but. Much like Michael Corleones angry lament, just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in. Join me, if you will, as we take a look over the next few days at the obvious and obscure challenges that face and will ultimately test both America and her soon-to-be-sworn-in neophyte president in the days to come. Today well begin with Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Iran. As the ongoing combat in Gaza highlights, its difficult to say the least to have substantive negotiations with someone that is firing either rockets or missiles at you. Moreover with someone that denies your very right to exist as Hamas does Israel. This latest episode highlights the fact that Israel must deal with two separate Palestinian entities a Hamas-controlled Gaza and a Fatah-led West Bank. Until there is some resolution between the two Palestinian factions that produces a single entity willing to publically accept Israels right to exist, a comprehensive and substantive agreement that culminates in the much discussed two-state resolution will remain little more than a mirage on the horizon. While many believe a comprehensive agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians cannot be achieved without the active and aggressive involvement of the United States, the Bush administrations blatantly pro-Israeli stance has hampered its ability to have any meaningful impact on the process as it is seen as a less than even-handed arbiter. That being the case, the incoming Obama administration will walk a precariously tight rope between competing pressures to be a more balanced and objective arbiter on the one hand verses remaining an ardent and stalwart supporter of Israel on the other. Among those corners from which pro-Israeli pressure is likely to come is the Office of the Secretary of State as Senator Hillary Clinton has been both passionate and vocal in her support of Israel and enjoys considerable political support and personal popularity in the American Jewish community. Meanwhile, there is growing concern that in addition to Irans pursuit of nuclear weapons and dreams of regional hegemony, it is also seeking to expand its influence and destabilize Israel by supporting both Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Increasingly, Israel believes Iran is conducting a coordinated and multi-faceted campaign against it. Depending on Israels course of action over the coming months, it may well find itself embroiled in a multi-front war. Should Israel attack the Iranian nuclear program, among the various options at Irans disposal in response is the unleashing of Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel; encouraging an escalation of attacks by Hamas including increased rocket fire and a campaign of suicide bombers in Israel proper; clandestinely attacking Israeli and Jewish targets globally, possibly using both Iranian Quds Forces operatives and Hezbollah or even going so far as directly attacking Israel with its long range Shahab-3 missiles. Were Israel to find itself confronted by a growing and unmanageable insurgency in the Palestinian Territories as well as a rain of Hezbollah rockets along its northern border, Syria may see the moment as an irresistible opportunity to at last reclaim its national pride and the long lost Golan Heights in one fell swoop. Urged on by its patrons in Tehran and riding what would most likely be a rising tide of enflamed and passionate anti-Israeli sentiment in the Arab street across the region, Syria might believe Israel to be too thinly spread and preoccupied to mount an effective defense of the contested Golan Heights. Such a calculation would result in open warfare between the two long standing antagonists that would include an unrelenting Israeli air campaign designed both to repel and punish Syria. While the primary objective would be the immediate defense of Israel and its territorial security, the secondary objective would be to demonstrate in no uncertain terms her will to unmercifully punish any potential aggressor. Having suffered a blow to its aura of invincibility in its summer 2006 engagement with Hezbollah, Israel would see an attack by Syria as an opportunity to reestablish its military credibility in the region. At the same time it would be sending a message to Tehran that should it confront Jerusalem directly it should be prepared to reap the whirlwind and face the full fury of her military might. In the end, what initially began as an attempt by Israel to secure its regional position and confront a rising threat in Iran may well place it at the heart of a region wide conflict. In the process, America would inevitably be drawn into the conflict. Either through asymmetrical Iranian attacks on its forces in Iraq, direct confrontation with Iran in the Strait of Hormuz or international pressure to reign in its Jewish ally, support a cease fire and aggressively move on a comprehensive regional accord, Washington will be inextricably tied to the decisions made in Jerusalem. With this highly volatile mix awaiting President Obama the moment he takes the Oath of Office, it is increasingly likely that Israel and its tenuous regional relations will once again move to the forefront of American foreign policy concerns. The more things change, the more they stay the same, faithful readers. Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and a dangerous and volatile world torments a weary and forlorn America.