During the election cycle, many of us, myself included, contrasted Obama’s distance from Israel with Romney’s clear belief in Israel’s right to self-defense and the Palestinian’s lack of interest in true peace. We were not wrong; Obama did want to place “daylight” between the United States and Israel, and pursue a more pro-Arab and pro-European foreign policy. Now that he has won his last election, he is free to pursue the course that he feels correct. And the Israelis, by engaging in their first open conflict with Hamas since Obama took office (Operation Cast Lead having ended with a cease-fire on January 18, 2009), handed him a golden opportunity to pursue a different course from that of George W. Bush.
That course was offered to him by U.N. secretary general Ban Ki Moon, who called on “Israel to exercise maximum restraint” and enact an “immediate de-escalation of tensions.” Ban had little to say when Hamas, the duly installed governing authority in the Gaza Strip, was raining missiles down upon Israeli civilians. But now that Israel is finally forced to respond, it’s time for “maximum restraint” and a “de-escalation” of the war initiated by those missile attacks.
Leftists in this country, like The Nation’s Phyllis Bennis, ignored the missile attacks and called the assassination of Arch-terrorist Al-Jabari a “major escalation” of Israel’s Gaza Attack — which, of course, did not exist before the assassination. Her colleague Robert Dreyfuss called hundreds of missiles aimed at civilians, at women and children, terrorizing them on a daily basis, “pinpricks” — simply because Israel has a regular army. [Is he an anti-Semitic Jew or simply a buffoon?]
The Obama administration would have none of it, placing 100% of the blame where it belongs. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the following:
We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence. There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately in order to allow the situation to de-escalate.
In … conversations [with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi], the president reiterated the United States’ support for Israel’s right to self-defense. President Obama also urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties.
Hamas claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. Attacking Israel on a near-daily basis does nothing to help the Palestinians in Gaza or to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self-determination.
We certainly hope the Administration continues to sing the same chorus during the difficult weeks ahead, both publicly and privately. But this is an auspicious beginning, and credit must be given where it is most surely due.