Up Next for Obama: Mideast Peace

Officials in Jerusalem watched tensely as the Obama administration worked to push major health insurance reform through both houses of Congress.

Senate Democrats passed the landmark health care bill in a climactic Christmas Eve vote that could define President Barack Obama's legacy and usher in near-universal medical coverage for the first time in U.S. history.

The 60-39 vote on a cold winter morning capped months of arduous negotiations and 24 days of floor debate. It also followed a succession of failures by past congresses to get to this point.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no stranger to internal political wrangling in the United States and how that relates to America's international standing.

An American president who fails in the domestic arena will find it difficult to garner support in Congress and the court of public opinion for important issues abroad.

Health care reform was a kind of entrance exam for Obama before tackling the Mideast. Netanyahu and his aides did not conceal their hope that Obama would slip up and lose prestige at home and abroad.

They assumed that a stinging defeat in this important area would tie Obama's hands and force him to spend more time shoring up his position and the strength of his party.

Democratic members of Congress feared that a failure on the health-care front would hurt the chances of maintaining a democratic majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell is getting ready to renew his efforts to move the peace process ahead.

However, the impression that Obama is losing support at home has negatively impacted the standing of the United States in international forums like the Quartet.

For the first time, the members of the Quartet have "risen up" against the United States, rejecting a proposal to welcome Israel's decision to freeze construction in the settlements. The European Union, which is embarking on a drive to consolidate power among member states, has also sensed Obama's weakness and has begun to consider independent initiatives.

Obama's victory and that of his party give the White House a lift. Moreover, when Obama returns from his Christmas vacation, he can devote more time to burning international issues, which he has neglected lately because of his preoccupation with health-care reform.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Israeli-Syrian channel, which have suffered for wont of a clear and consistent policy, may now enjoy some presidential quality time.