While I generally agree with most points raised by Jennifer, I do not think it is that bad that Barack Obama has taken a no-comment position on the Israel-Gaza war. He will gain nothing, and might lose plenty by taking a stand on such an uncertain situation. The warring parties will also gain very little – with one exception: Israel can claim that Obama’s silence might tempt Hamas to remain defiant and hold out for a better deal after January 20 (as I argued earlier, I don’t think this is a war about toppling Hamas, but rather about getting a better deal). However, I don’t think Hamas seriously expects Obama to support their cause.Of course, once inaugurated, Obama will not be able to remain silent and run away from tough choices. But since there will be plenty of time for that — why start now?
As U.S. News accurately reports:
Media reports are portraying the Israeli offensive in Gaza as a setback to President-elect Obama’s hopes to broker a lasting Middle East peace deal. At the same time, some reports suggest the flare-up increases the pressure on Obama to deal quickly with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a time when his foreign policy agenda is already crowded.
One of the only assets Obama will have at his disposal is clean-slate-clean-brake status. But as Jennifer argues, “the dramatic departures which some envisioned (e.g. immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, a Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough, closing of Guantanamo) aren’t remotely possible any time soon.” This status is more image than utility. And if that’s all Obama is working with for now, there’s not much for him to say.