But neither country can escape the consequences of Syria's unraveling. More than a million refugees now pose a threat to the stability of Syria's neighbors, including Jordan and Lebanon, a prospect that spells more trouble for the region, the United States and Israel. Sectarian clashes in Syria are deepening sectarian battle lines in Iraq and elsewhere in the region. Islamic jihadists -- some of the best equipped and most capable fighters in Syria -- are establishing a strong position.
Syria's disintegration could unleash the Assad regime's stockpile of chemical and other weapons. Hezbollah, with the support of Iran, might shift rockets and other sophisticated weapons from Syria to Lebanon. And after years of a relatively stable border with Syria along the Golan Heights, Israel now faces growing jihadist threats there and a U.N. monitoring mission under pressure.
The United States and Israel thus share the common goal of expediting Assad's departure in a way that minimizes risks to regional stability and of an imploding Syrian state. In his recent trip to the region, Secretary of State John Kerry -- building on the work done by his predecessor Hillary Clinton -- opened channels of direct aid (though still non-lethal) to the opposition and lent full public support to the assistance by others. The United States should do more to help shift the balance of forces on the ground -- to increase the pressure on Assad before a bloody battle over Damascus. U.S. agencies are gaining greater knowledge about the groups on the ground. The battle today over the ouster of Assad is the prelude to the battle over the future of Syria after Assad goes. The United States can't expect to have much influence on that future, nor much leverage on those who will decide it, if it is not working to strengthen more moderate groups now.
Finally, the third topic for Obama and Netanyahu is Israeli-Palestinian peace. This arguably is the one most fraught with disagreement: Whereas the United States sees this as an important issue that must be tackled with some urgency, many in Israel see things differently. They believe progress is highly unlikely, that concessions at a time of regional volatility are unwise, and that the world must first take care of Iran.
It is important from the outset to clarify a few points: The argument made by those in the United States on behalf of movement on the peace process is not -- nor has it ever been -- that resolving the conflict is the key to resolving all other regional issues. No, the argument made by those of us who advocate efforts on behalf of a two-state solution is different: It is that the status quo is not stable and does not serve U.S. interests, Israel's or those of moderate Palestinians.
In the West Bank, the combination of rising economic distress, anger at the Palestinian Authority -- which has problems paying salaries -- and loss of faith in negotiations, is combustible. Clashes between Palestinians and Israelis are increasing. Palestinian security cooperation with Israel is fraying, leading to an increase in incursions by the Israeli military. The danger of a misstep quickly escalating out of control is real.