Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Should Obama Respond to the Gaza Crisis?

After ten days of aerial attacks and rocket salvos, the conflict in Gaza has now become an all out ground offensive. During that time, Obama, Hillary and Biden have maintained a studied silence.

Is this just pre-inauguration protocol? Or does it signal an approval of the Bush administration’s policy towards Hamas and Israel? If so, is this a good thing?

Consider this an open thread on the mounting conflict in Gaza.

As Simon Tisdall points out in today’s Observer, Obama’s silence is seen through most of the Arab and Muslim world as a tacit acquiescence to the Bush doctrine. As for the idea that a President Elect should not comment or intervene in international issues, the contradictions have been noted.

Regional critics claim Obama is happy to break his pre-inauguration “no comment” rule on international issues when it suits him. They note his swift condemnation of November’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Obama has also made frequent policy statements on mitigating the impact of the global credit crunch.

My personal hunch is that the I/P issue is such a live rail in the US, constantly framed in the simplicities of ‘one side bad/the other side good’, that Obama is effectively constrained from saying anything more out of domestic political considerations.

As the election process showed, any sign of a retreat from the hardline Likudist support so prominent in the Bush administration is quickly portrayed as being ‘weak on terror’ or some kind of capitulation to Hamas and its apologists. So I think Obama is being cautious.

But Bush’s policies have visibly failed in the Middle East, and we desperately need a new vision. Outside the multivalent combatants, the US has the only playable card in the region.

Should Obama and his team keep their counsel till January 20th? And in the meantime, what fundamentalist political forces – from Iranian extremists to Israeli right wing expansionists – will exploit this pre inauguration hiatus?


  1. …to discuss this without falling into the normal polarised traps. In a conflict like this (in most conflicts indeed), no side is entirely right, and no side is entirely wrong. That way years more intransigence and carnage lie.  

  2. spacemanspiff

    Barack will be our President on January 20th. Their is a difference between differing on domestic policy and foreign policy with the current administration during a time of crisis.  

  3. creamer

     Would Hamas accept this? Would Israel?

    Before a “peace process” can begin people have to stop shooting at each other. I am afraid I don’t see Hamas doing so until it’s been severley hurt. Maybe that was a possibility before the offensive started, I have doubts, but it has started and I’m afraid any offer of a cease fire by Israel would be viewed as weakness, bringing more rocket’s.

     I would like to see Israel give up the West Bank settlements and for Jerueselem to be an open city. Civil rights for Isralei non-jews, and a functioning Goverment in the West Bank and Gaza. But you will not get their without a large UN presence. Bush is an idiot, and has fanned flames in the region, but America can not make the Israeli’s and the Palestinians get along by itself. Europe need to became engaged also. From my view it often seems that Europe is more than willing to chastise Israel, but unwilling to do or say anything that might upset the arab “street”.

    I think both Europe and the US need to become more honest in their dealings in this part of the world.

  4. he is not president yet.  but im fairly certain that the israelis have let both the current and incoming administrations know of their plans and upcoming movements.

  5. KLRinLA

    This conflict has more layers than nacho dip and it is very confusing to digest the multitude of viewpoints, conflicting information, and violence.  I feel for the palestinians who appear to be in an apartheid-like position and are being treated like 2nd class people.  I feel for the Israeli’s (and Jewish folks in general) who have been targeted for millenia and are now currently dodging rockets.  I feel for the palestinians who sought a terrorist organization, to essentially hand over the reigns to a militant group who could possibly obtain some land and equal footing, but are now being used by Hamas as sheilds and propaganda for further violence against Israel and advertising for recruitment.  I feel for the Israelis who are experiencing this conflict because of the proximity of upcoming elections.  The more I read the more I am confused.  Add in moral relativity (which I don’t necessarily agree with, rape viticms should’t be stoned to death, nor should we just agree with it b/c of different cultures), comparisons to our actions in the development of the US, a heightened consciousness of war, the fact that we are dealing with terrorist groups that actually seem to be reinforced the more they are shellacked, and you have a hodgepodge of WTF.

    I know where I stand, current actions of random rocket tossing is bad.  Death of innocent  palestinians is bad.  Using war for political gain is bad.  Handing over power to terrorists is bad.    Eliminating terrorists is good, but eliminting terrorists creates more terrorists, which is bad.  This conflict is terrible and both sides do not enter in with clean hands, in totality of the circumstances.  Though I cannot begin to allocate the level of blame between the two, I don’t think that is useful at this point.  We need a pragmatic approach that looks to solve this rather than debate on who did what.  There are obviously motivations on both sides to get what they want and it appears that the efforts thus far have been futile and even regressive.

    In my likely unfounded and naive opinion, I think to provide Palestinians with a reasonable tract of sovereign land with the ability to prosper like human beings is the right thing to do.  This would be conditional of course, upon kicking out Hamas leaders from the palestinian leadership and palestinians must agree that Israel exists as its own state.  I would think this would give what palestinians want, land to live on, and what Israel wants, to not be attacked and to be legitmately recognized. Both sides need to stop the fighting NOW, before this escalates into an irreparable position.  I cannot see how continuing this on either side will actually be beneficial in the long term. I know, sounds dreamy, but we can hope right?

  6. GrassrootsOrganizer

     Obama CANNOT project to the world any sense that there is not an American CiC at the helm (such as he is) every minute of every day between now and January 20.   To do so would be reckless and impulsive under the circumstances and there isn’t an informed voice out there calling for such a statement. Any statement Obama makes now usurps power from the sitting president, his envoys and the military currently under his command.  When dealing with urgent foreign affairs, there can be no question who’s in charge and that does not change for three more weeks.  Regardless of the doof in the driver’s seat, you can not diminish the power of the position.  

    We could play any number of “what ifs” with this, starting with what if a third player rapidly escalated the conflict to the point the situation called for immediate US military intervention?    Who makes that call between now and January 20?  The answer CANNOT be anything other than George W Bush.  The one thing you don’t want added to this explosive mix is confusion of where the US stands on any given day, even if that position could change over night.  

    And who would it be, exactly, conveying the official position of the US in current intervening negotiations?  Rice, I assume, but not if her boss is being contradicted by the new boss before his SoS is in a position to enter those talks.  And who do the envoys of Israel and Hamas convey their shifting positions to, specifically…  Secretary Rice?  Emanuel?  Sure as shit not Hillary Clinton who last time I looked has not yet been appointed to say shit.

    This is a WAR in the MIDDLE EAST we are talking about here, the ramifications of which can and will extend far beyond the Gaza Strip and far beyond the next three f-ing weeks.  The outcome impacts the power balance of the entire region and tensions around the globe.  I’d like to think Obama is holed up with his advisors devouring intelligence and pulling together a coherent Day One plan… not drafting  “feel good” statements for his fellow Americans that only confuse the circumstances overseas.

    If one needs to blame an American for this miss, look no further than the current occupant of the Oval Office.  He still holds every card.  

  7. rfahey22

    Given that he’s made numerous pronouncements on various domestic issues, it seems clear that they have made the strategic choice not to speak up.  My concern would be that the regional players could try to take advantage of a situation in which Obama’s policy differed materially from Bush’s but Obama did not have an opportunity to implement his policy for another few weeks.  

  8. A response to explain the lack of response. Believe me, for us furrners, this helps

    US president-elect Barack Obama today broke his silence on the fighting in Gaza, saying he was “deeply concerned about the conflict” but postponing further comment on the Israeli invasion and Hamas attacks on Israel until after his inauguration.

    On a day when much of official Washington was consumed by dramatic action in the US Senate and by negotiations on Obama’s massive fiscal stimulus proposal, Obama told reporters he was closely monitoring the situation in Gaza and was receiving intelligence briefings.

    “The loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel is a source of deep concern to me,” he said in a question and answer session at his transition office, “and after January 20 I’m going to have plenty to say about the issue.”

    Obama reiterated his belief that he should refrain from interjecting in foreign affairs before his election so the US government can present a single face to the world.

    “Starting at the beginning of our administration, we are going to engage effectively and consistently in trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East,” he said. “On January 20, you will be hearing directly from me, and my opinions on the issue. Until then, my job is to monitor the situation” and to assemble a national security and foreign policy team.

  9. creamer

     Today Israel reportedly said it would accept a cease-fire if it was gaurunteed the rockets would end and Hamas would not be allowed to rearm. Turkey is working on a plan for observers or peacekeepers.

    Hamas said that Israel must withdraw and all border crossings must be open, crossings that Israel closed after Hamas kicked out Fatah in an attempt to control entry of terrorist and suicide bombers. Osama Hamden, Hamas spokesman in Lebanon is qouted:

    “The idea of an international force is rejected and such forces which will come to Gaza to protect Israel will be dealt with as enemy forces,” he said.

    Apparently their not to keen on peackeepers or observers.

     So to be honest, and quite politicaly incorrect, I would suggest that Israel has no options at the current time other than crushing Hamas. If your enemies stated goal is to eliminate your country, and has shown no flexibility in changeing or reaching an accomodation, your only logical response is to eliminate your enemy.

Comments are closed.