Hijacking Obama’s Middle East Strategy

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One of the most important and sensible comments made during the last stretch of the campaign came from the straight-talking Joe Biden. The then Democratic vice-presidential nominee said that Barack Obama would be “tested” by crisis early in his presidency.
Biden was right — and if anything, probably understated the frequency and severity of these tests of America’s resolve and objectives in the world. To be fair, I believe that a McCain administration would have been tested equally.
Part of what is going on today with Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s unleashing of massive Israeli airpower against Hamas offices in Gaza is a test of Obama’s America. Hamas’s decision to end its “lull”, or temporary ceasefire with Israel, also has a lot to do with testing the U.S. and seeing what the outlines of Obama’s policy will be.
Barack Obama cannot afford to allow his presidency and its foreign policy course to be hijacked by either side in this increasingly blurry dispute. Israel’s actions today just created thousands of aggrieved and vengeful relatives committed to delivering some blowback against Israel.
Hamas, at the same time, overplayed its hand at a fragile time. Hamas will never play the role of supplicant or subordinate to Israel’s interests — but its resumption of violence before the Israeli elections and during a time of transition in US politics triggered a devastating responce from Israel that signficantly undermined its own interests as a potentially responsible steward of a Palestinian state.
The violence we are watching is just yet another installment in the blur of tit-for-tat violence from both sides of this chronic foreign affairs ulcer.
The US — and the incoming Obama administration — must move an agenda forward in Israel-Palestine negotiations that works at levels higher than the perpetrators of this violence. It’s time to get this conflict out of the weeds, and time to stop allowing any actors in this drama to hijack the foreign policy machinery of governments trying to push forward a Palestinian state.
America has to get out of the role of “managing” this conflict — and must solve it. Israel and the Palestinians have shown themselves unable to maturely end their conflict — and short of a results-oriented strategy that puts the “Middle East Peace Business” out of business, America will be constantly tugged into this conflict and blamed for it.
My colleague Daniel Levy who co-directs the Middle East Task Force of the New America Foundation will be weighing in later with his own thoughts from Israel later today or tomorrow.
But for now, the Obama administration must set its sites higher than this tragic episode and sculpt a national security strategy that this minority view, or that minority view, armed with guns and rockets and planes and bombs can’t hijack and derail at will.
It’s time for a new course — to get beyond false choices between Israel’s interests and Palestinian interests — and to generate a new equilibrium that can withstand these predictable pin-pricking provocations.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

116 comments on “Hijacking Obama’s Middle East Strategy

  1. angelinajhon says:

    Mideast On Fire (As Usually)

    USA refused to initiate a military intervention because Syria has much more military equipment than Libya and will

    be expensive to beat. The decision seems to be good as long as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are becoming a new

    Vietnam War for the States.

    Turkey became an enemy of Syria with the introduction of its imperialist political doctrine and the years of

    cooperation between the two countries were forgotten.

    For more detail view this link http://bitterbananas.com/mideast-on-fire-as-usually/

    Reply

  2. Facebook Application says:

    Excellent website.This is very informative..
    Thanks.

    Reply

  3. Megan says:

    Its always this bullshit. Rocket attacks, rocket attacks, rocket attacks, ad nauseum, as if the Palestinians would be in Fat City if they would just stop lobbing crude inaccurate projectiles at Israel. Never mind the non-existent infrastructure. Never mind the raw sewage in the streets. Never mind the power outages. Never mind the food shortages.

    Reply

  4. bruce says:

    Looks like Barack Obama has figured out that one of the main obstacles to mideast peace are the illegal Jewish settlements.The West Bank and Gaza Ghetto are Occupied Territories according to international law,The Geneva Convention,countless UN resolutions Israel has continuously ignored.
    It is important to note that these Illegal settlements are exclusively Jewish,built on stolen private land,and are connected by roads that are also exclusive.The IDF supports the whole ROTTEN system and is let loose on the Non Jewish captive Palestinian populace corralled in Israel designed walled reservations.The Aim is to make the lives of these Non Jews so insufferable as to drive them off their lands and bring in Jewish Israelis.
    Now if you build an Apartheid society not too many would argue it’s not wrong,but the Israeli model is Funded buy things like tax free Israel Bonds and other slippery financial instruments with origins MOSTLY in these United States.
    Furthermore,Israel receives over $10 million a day in US DOLLARS that we know of.Unique in the annals of US foreign aid:US “CASH” is deposited in the Israeli treasury at the beginning of each year,and the US taxpayer pays the interest on that Borrowed money.Israel invests in turn that New money and collects interest.How sweet ‘Tis.
    According to the Christian Science Monitor,the cost of Israel to the American TAXpayer has been over $1.6 TRILLION since 1973.http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1209/p16s01-wmgn.html

    Reply

  5. silus dogood says:

    are we really this stupid?israel has the right to defend itself against hamas,or anyone else that fires missiles into their towns,and they should not have given up the gaza strip to begin with.
    there is another problem you should really think about.north korea,has now the missile that can reach the u s and i think its timming is perfect.i cant wait to see how fast the left wing radicals run and hide,waiting for better men to fight to save them,so they can come out of hiding later and condemn the way the battle was fought and i may be wrong,but i think a lot of people are like me.they just dont give a damn anymore.whats to fight for? a country with moral deficit,and sliding down the road to socialism? no,i will just watch this one. the fools who are deluded into thinking obama is the great messiah,can go down with the ship theyve started bumping into iceburgs.

    Reply

  6. herbert stamper says:

    obama is and alwas has been nothing more than a chicago thug mouthpiece for acorn,and the unions

    Reply

  7. DavidT says:

    Ted,
    No desire to get into a long discussion. However I fail to see the link between your points 2 and 3. If you’re born in the U.S. you’re a “natural born citizen” or “American born” period.

    Reply

  8. SP says:

    Ted:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural-born_citizen
    Please note the case law as well as the 14-th amendment.

    Reply

  9. Ted says:

    Challenge, can anyone prove this wrong?:–
    1. Constitution Article II requires USA President to be “natural born citizen”.
    2. BHO’s website admits his dad was Kenyan/British, not American, citizen when BHO was born.
    3. BHO is therefore not a “natural born citizen” (irrespective of Hawaiian birth or whether he may be a 14th Amendment “citizen” of USA) — as confirmed in the Senate’s own McCain qualification resolution agreed to by BHO.
    4. Supreme Court has already docketed two upcoming conferences, 1/9/09 and 1/16/09 — between dates Congress counts electoral votes (1/8/09) and Presidential inauguration (1/20/09) — to address Berg Case and fashion relief on BHO’s eligibility to be President.
    5. Since no facts are in dispute, Supreme Court rules on Summary Judgment to enjoin BHO’s inauguration as President.
    6. Therefore, BHO is not inaugurated as President.
    7. Vice President Elect Biden is inaugurated Acting President under the 20th Amendment to serve until new President is determined — the procedure for which determination to be set out by Congress and/or the Supreme Court so long as in conformance with the Constitution.

    Reply

  10. Michael Croy says:

    Wow the stench of anti-semitism, oh excuse me, anti-zionism here in this comments section is overwhelming. Think I’ll go back to Diary of Anne Frank, as it’s more light hearted.

    Reply

  11. rich says:

    Paul Norheim 2 3:22PM
    Lay that on wiwag — who’s busily assigning decisions and policies to Barack Obama before he’s even in office. The only American acquiescence that matters right now is Prznt George W. Bush’s.

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  12. Bob h says:

    I’d like to see Obama put Israel on notice that, until some real movement on settlements occurs, he cannot help them. Until Israel shows its good faith on settlements, his attitude should be a pox on both your houses.

    Reply

  13. DavidT says:

    Hmm,
    I think this is an absolutely horrible situation. I’m not particularly sympathetic to either side.
    However its hard for me to imagine that any American would defend any group that was responsible for sending missiles in our direction no matter what the U.S. had done to them.
    Again Israel’s policy has not been particularly wise in so many ways and I hope our next President brings a bit more common sense to this conflict. I do think that Israeli domestic politics plays a role in this which can be countered through U.S. pressure.
    I’m not sure what it means to go “beyond the false choices” as much as I would like to see that happen.

    Reply

  14. Paul Norheim says:

    Let`s wait and see, rich…

    Reply

  15. Nostromo says:

    Obama’s first act as President will be to take 1 of the 3 billion in “aid” to Israel away from Israel, to: 1. help with our American fiscal problems; 2. Serve notice to the Israelis and AIPAC that their evil scheming that drags the USA further down into their cesspool will not be tolerated; 3. to show the Muslim world that America is not playing a one-sided game in Palestine anymore; 4. to set up the next ultimatum from the USA that the settlements must be dismantled with the same ferocity that the Israeli’s destroyed Gaza; 5. and set the stage for the Final two-state Solution.
    Obama’s gonna show the Israeli’s and AIPAC how the game of “Fuck you” is really played, and the relationship is gonna do a 180 with Israel coming to US hat in hand rather than they constantly biting the hand that feeds them. We are going to get some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and Israel will be put in its rightful place as minor partner.
    I Have A Dream !

    Reply

  16. rich says:

    Paul Norheim @ 10:00PM
    “One thing is cherry picking from Obamas many statements because you want your expectations confirmed; an other thing is cherry picking from all those things he NEVER said.”
    How d’ya figure?
    wig wag is cherry picking Obama’s statements to insinuate that current events reflect Obama’s policies — policies that Obama NEVER set, nor implemented — because he is not President. wigwag even referred to the Obama Administration — yet no such thing exists. It is the Bush Administration that has been silent. It is the Bush Administration that sets American policy.
    We are not seeing the future Prznt Obama’s policies yet. We do not know what they are. For wigwag to assert they are already being implemented or s/he knows what they are is not only obtuse, it contradicts everything widely available fact.
    Obama has made careful statements that placate some actors and make studied, understated challenges to other actors. No one should be surprised: he is responsible as a statesman-elect for promoting broader American interests rather than an ideological point of view or even a long-term objective; for stabilizing American interests; and for tamping down passions so as not to ignite outrage or conflict. At minimum, that affords him room to maneuver and time to do what he wants.
    I didn’t cherry pick anything. We are seeing Bush’s policies now — not Obama’s. For wigwag to assign them to Obama is laughable: Obama’s not in office. Further, a future President is not going to tip his hand. Obama is notorious for holding his cards close to his vest — and he’d be foolish to do otherwise.
    I don’t expect Obama to fulfill my expectations. But the track record indicates, I think, that Obama will not turn into George Bush overnight. He won’t conform to anyone’s ideological line, obviously, but he’s very unlikely to let the status quo eat itself alive, either.

    Reply

  17. carol says:

    PE Obama needs to change the policy as regards to Israel…we bend over backwards to accommodate them and have done so for years.
    They are not the only ones who are suffering here, in fact they inflict more damage than Palestine could ever do!!!!!
    We are seen around the world as “Israel’s puppet’s” and that is true, never any condemnation against Israel during these horrific attacks and yet we can’t come out quick enough to condemn Palestine!!!
    Totally unbelievable!!!!

    Reply

  18. drjohn says:

    “Barack Obama cannot afford to allow his presidency and its foreign policy course to be hijacked by either side in this increasingly blurry dispute. Israel’s actions today just created thousands of aggrieved and vengeful relatives committed to delivering some blowback against Israel.”
    Yeah, Israel should just sit there and take it like, like, like the Jews did in Nazi Germany, right, Steve?
    This is utter nonsense. And your logic is brutally obtuse. Obama cannot afford to have completely unreasonable people behaving in a completely unreasonable manner?
    Oh, the poor guy! Maybe he best let a pro take over.

    Reply

  19. BO says:

    This article is laced with typical anti-Israel sentiment, dashed with a hope that Obama just might be as anti-Israel as the left wing of his party.
    This also shows the utter lack of street smarts. When someone fires a rocket at you, you dont sit around and say “It’s time for a new course — to get beyond false choices between Israel’s interests and Palestinian interests — and to generate a new equilibrium that can withstand these predictable pin-pricking provocations.” Thats what an academic says in her safe and tidy office surrounded by fellow egg-head idiots who have no notion of what its like to have rockets fired at you everyday and have no recourse out of fear that YOU will be blamed.

    Reply

  20. Cee says:

    Hey Marty,
    Our soldiers better be ready for the long fight too.
    From Juan Cole
    Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Iraq has called upon Arab and Muslim nations to support the Palestinians in Gaza with more than lip service. Iran’s PressTv translated the statement this way:
    ‘ “Condemning what is going on in Gaza and supporting our brothers only with words is meaningless, considering the big tragedy they are facing . . . Arab and Islamic nations need to take a decisive stance, now more than ever, to end these ongoing aggressions and to break the unjust siege imposed on the brave people of Gaza . . .”
    Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the leading Shiite party in parliament, also came out strongly on behalf of the Gazans.

    Reply

  21. David says:

    Obama should stop the use of American taxpayer dollars and/or American made weapons to invade, occupy and oppress indigenous peoples in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere around the world.
    The best way to reduce threats of terror against America is to stop participating, supporting or condoning acts of terror against others.

    Reply

  22. Marty N says:

    http://rsmccain.blogspot.com/2008/12/israel-ready-for-long-fight.html
    Every problem in the world to be viewed through your pathetic U.S. liberal politics window? what a joke you people are.

    Reply

  23. jdledell says:

    wigwam – I challenged your statements – have you no rebuttal?

    Reply

  24. Paul Norheim says:

    I have no idea, Eric.

    Reply

  25. erichwwk says:

    Paul or Steve, do you why Nir Rosen no longer a New America Foundation fellow?

    Reply

  26. erichwwk says:

    It did. Thank you very much, Paul.

    Reply

  27. Paul Norheim says:

    I hope this link to Nir Rosen`s essay will work:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/dec/29/gaza-hamas-israel

    Reply

  28. Paul Norheim says:

    NIR ROSEN`S ESSAY IN THE GUARDIAN:
    Here are some long quotes from a much longer, but interesting
    essay by Nir Rosen, called “Gaza: The Logic of Colonial Power”,
    and published in The Guardian this Monday. I think it may
    become controversial, and would suggest that Steve Clemons
    publishes the whole essay as a separate post. Until then, some
    quotes:
    “The international community is directly guilty for this latest
    massacre. Will it remain immune from the wrath of a desperate
    people?”
    ——————-
    “I have often been asked by policy analysts, policy-makers and
    those stuck with implementing those policies for my advice on
    what I think America should do to promote peace or win hearts
    and minds in the Muslim world. It too often feels futile, because
    such a revolution in American policy would be required that
    only a true revolution in the American government could bring
    about the needed changes. An American journal once asked me
    to contribute an essay to a discussion on whether terrorism or
    attacks against civilians could ever be justified. My answer was
    that an American journal should not be asking whether attacks
    on civilians can ever be justified. This is a question for the
    weak, for the Native Americans in the past, for the Jews in Nazi
    Germany, for the Palestinians today, to ask themselves.”
    —————
    “Normative rules are determined by power relations. Those with
    power determine what is legal and illegal. They besiege the
    weak in legal prohibitions to prevent the weak from resisting.
    For the weak to resist is illegal by definition. Concepts like
    terrorism are invented and used normatively as if a neutral
    court had produced them, instead of the oppressors. The
    danger in this excessive use of legality actually undermines
    legality, diminishing the credibility of international institutions
    such as the United Nations. It becomes apparent that the
    powerful, those who make the rules, insist on legality merely to
    preserve the power relations that serve them or to maintain
    their occupation and colonialism.
    —————
    Attacking civilians is the last, most desperate and basic method
    of resistance when confronting overwhelming odds and
    imminent eradication. The Palestinians do not attack Israeli
    civilians with the expectation that they will destroy Israel. The
    land of Palestine is being stolen day after day; the Palestinian
    people is being eradicated day after day. As a result, they
    respond in whatever way they can to apply pressure on Israel.
    Colonial powers use civilians strategically, settling them to
    claim land and dispossess the native population, be they Indians
    in North America or Palestinians in what is now Israel and the
    Occupied Territories. When the native population sees that there
    is an irreversible dynamic that is taking away their land and
    identity with the support of an overwhelming power, then they
    are forced to resort to whatever methods of resistance they
    can.”
    ———–
    “In September, Bush spoke at the United Nations. No cause
    could justify the deliberate taking of human life, he said. Yet the
    US has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes on populated
    areas. When you drop bombs on populated areas knowing there
    will be some “collateral” civilian damage, but accepting it as
    worth it, then it is deliberate. When you impose sanctions, as
    the US did on Saddam era Iraq, that kill hundreds of thousands,
    and then say their deaths were worth it, as secretary of state
    Albright did, then you are deliberately killing people for a
    political goal. When you seek to “shock and awe”, as president
    Bush did, when he bombed Iraq, you are engaging in terrorism.”
    ————
    Just as the traditional American cowboy film presented white
    Americans under siege, with Indians as the aggressors, which
    was the opposite of reality, so, too, have Palestinians become
    the aggressors and not the victims. Beginning in 1948, 750,000
    Palestinians were deliberately cleansed and expelled from their
    homes, and hundreds of their villages were destroyed, and their
    land was settled by colonists, who went on to deny their very
    existence and wage a 60-year war against the remaining natives
    and the national liberation movements the Palestinians
    established around the world. Every day, more of Palestine is
    stolen, more Palestinians are killed. To call oneself an Israeli
    Zionist is to engage in the dispossession of entire people. It is
    not that, qua Palestinians, they have the right to use any means
    necessary, it is because they are weak. The weak have much
    less power than the strong, and can do much less damage. The
    Palestinians would not have ever bombed cafes or used home-
    made missiles if they had tanks and airplanes. It is only in the
    current context that their actions are justified, and there are
    obvious limits.
    ——————–
    It is impossible to make a universal ethical claim or establish a
    Kantian principle justifying any act to resist colonialism or
    domination by overwhelming power. And there are other
    questions I have trouble answering. Can an Iraqi be justified in
    attacking the United States? After all, his country was attacked
    without provocation, and destroyed, with millions of refugees
    created, hundreds of thousands of dead. And this, after 12
    years of bombings and sanctions, which killed many and
    destroyed the lives of many others.
    ————-
    I could argue that all Americans are benefiting from their
    country’s exploits without having to pay the price, and that, in
    today’s world, the imperial machine is not merely the military
    but a military-civilian network. And I could also say that
    Americans elected the Bush administration twice and elected
    representatives who did nothing to stop the war, and the
    American people themselves did nothing. From the perspective
    of an American, or an Israeli, or other powerful aggressors, if
    you are strong, everything you do is justifiable, and nothing the
    weak do is legitimate. It’s merely a question of what side you
    choose: the side of the strong or the side of the weak.
    ——
    A failed American administration departs, the promise of a
    Palestinian state a lie, as more Palestinians are murdered. A new
    president comes to power, but the people of the Middle East
    have too much bitter experience of US administrations to have
    any hope for change. President-elect Obama, Vice President-
    elect Biden and incoming secretary of state Hillary Clinton have
    not demonstrated that their view of the Middle East is at all
    different from previous administrations.
    ——————-
    ——————–
    You can read Nir Rosen`s essay here:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/dec/29/gaza-
    hamas-israel

    Reply

  29. SteveIL says:

    “The US — and the incoming Obama administration — must move an agenda forward in Israel-Palestine negotiations that works at levels higher than the perpetrators of this violence. It’s time to get this conflict out of the weeds, and time to stop allowing any actors in this drama to hijack the foreign policy machinery of governments trying to push forward a Palestinian state.”
    What is it about brain-dead liberals who don’t have a clue as to what they are talking about trying to make policy? Levels higher than the perpetrators of this violence? The perpetrators were Hamas, the thugs who violently overthrew Fatah and the PA out of Gaza. They run the place. They have to be dealt with one way or the other. And about the only way is to strike back at them lethally.

    Reply

  30. Paul Norheim says:

    On this thread, there have been several different ways to read
    the unfolding events.
    1) A “highjacking of Obama`s Middle East Strategy”. (Steve
    Clemons)
    2) Knocking out Hamas, in the hope that Fatah will be
    strengthened – which would be good for Israel in future
    negotiations. (Dan Kervick 1)
    3) The first movements in a strategy to militarily attack Iran,
    aided by USA. (Dan Kervick 2)
    4) Preparations to weaken Hamas, leading, not to a military
    attack on Iran, but to negotiations and US led Peace agreements
    on a regional level, involving Syria as well, with the intent to
    brake the link between Tehran-Damascus-Beirut-Gaza. (Paul N)
    The reason why I found this fourth alternative quite plausible, is
    that I think it would serve most of the powers and countries
    involved.
    It would be good for Syria to be invited into the “international
    community” and get back their land.
    It would be a nice opportunity for Israel (perhaps represented
    by Ehud Barak) to negotiate with Palestine (represented not by
    Hamas, and not by Arafat, but some weaker person who will
    have a very weak position in the Palestinian community)
    It would be good for USA prestige and security to be able to
    help them settle some old issues.
    But if they managed to make an Israeli-Syrian deal, that would
    involve a weakening of the link between Syria and Hezbollah.
    And that would be very tempting for an Obama led
    administration, if he intends to have “direct talks” with Tehran.
    I regard Dans suggestions as very plausible. And if his 2.
    version (preparations for an attack on Iran) should prove to be
    true, I would not try to predict the outcome.
    But if Barack Obama begins to see something like this as
    preparations for a Middle East Peace deal, as well as something
    leading to a future US-Iran deal, I think he would be tempted.
    The trouble?
    The Palestinian people will become the losers, big time.
    They got a bad deal in the Oslo agreements, they got a bad deal
    in Camp David in 2001. They will be even weaker now, due to
    their lack of unity, the lack of a credible leadership, and due to
    the dramatic “preparations” on the ground, managed and
    allowed by Sharon and the current Israeli leadership.
    Given the signals so far from people like Obama and Hillary
    Clinton, there is no reason to believe that USA seriously will be
    fighting for the well being of the Palestinians.
    If Ehud Barak, by saying that “Our intention is to totally change
    the rules of the game,” is thinking of future political
    negotiations, possibly led by USA, there is absolutely nothing
    that indicates that the Palestinians will not end up with a very,
    very lousy deal.
    Israel has kept 1.5 million Palestinians somewhere just
    below/above starvation for a long time. Not only America, but
    the rest of the world as well (Europe included), have watched
    this tragedy, and practically done nothing. And the leaders in
    the Arab world are basically occupied with their own security
    concerns and rivalry.
    I can see no reason why some significant “players” would do a
    real effort in the coming years to give the Palestinians a decent
    life, with basic, elementary rights.
    Sure, they`ll put pressure on Israel. But Israel will push back.
    And the Palestinians will lose.

    Reply

  31. Gene44 says:

    No Steve this is not a test of Obama. In actually this is a test of the Muslim leadership in the world affairs when they stand by and allow Hamas to fire rockets and mortars on a daily basis into Israel.
    In 1948 a Two State Solution was make possible by the UN and promptly rejected by all Muslim nations who still believe in the Hitler solution of eliminating all people of the Jewish faith. Thus the Grand Mufi of Jordan told the Palestines to flee the area while the Muslim armies destroyed all the Jewish people. Results were thousands of Palestines killed by the Jordan Army and thousands placed in refugee camps where they remain today because the Muslim nations refused to let them become part of their societies. Keep the pressure on the Western nations who voted for this two state solution by making them feed and cloth these people who are not allowed to work and support their families. Place the blame on those responsible – Muslim leaders.

    Reply

  32. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Back down on our planet, Earth, there are real aliens, real monsters who prefer paradise to this life”
    And I bet the bigot that rolled that gem off her keyboard is one of the first to drool “anti-semite” at anyone that looks cross-eyed at her.
    Perhaps she thinks the Palestinian high schools are a cake walk, eh?

    Reply

  33. fyi says:

    When will you people wake up and smell the coffee? This is a war between Judaism and Islam; it is no longer resolvable.
    For US, the best is to cut her losses and extricate herself (by hook or crook) from this mess; let the Muslims and Jews go at it.
    I do not see anything here for US except the accumulation of additional hatred from the hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world.

    Reply

  34. rich says:

    “But if you’re sure that ‘once he’s in command, the difference will be clear to everybody’ my question is; why are you sure? What exactly is the evidence that your basing your confidence on?”
    You realize, don’t you, that this was my question to you? You made a very specific assertion, without providing any evidence whatsoever: “that by bombing Gaza, Barak is implementing Obama’s Middle East Strategy.”
    I see no reason to think that this would be so.
    Israel previously violated the cease-fire. Ehud Barak bombed Gaza of his own volition. And Barack Obama had made noises sympathetic to Israel’s need to quell attacks on its territory. But there’s no connection. Why should anyone believe your far-out idea Ehud is a tool of Obama? Rather than Bush?
    Barack Obama is not President: There’s no compelling scenario in which Ehud’s bombing is a tool to accomplish Obama’s strategy. More likely the inverse is true — bombing Gaza is a last minute implementation of the Bush strategy before he exits, stage far-right.
    As for my statement, you ask, “But if you’re sure that ‘once he’s in command, the difference will be clear to everybody’ my question is; why are you sure?” Isn’t it obvious? Barack Obama is not President. He has set no policy, made no decision, nor directed that strategy be carried out. Once he is sworn in as Prznt, Obama will establish his own policies and see that they’re implemented. I don’t expect everything to change, but what isn’t obviously different from Bush’s foreign policy approach, will nonetheless be clearly owned by Obama.
    In other words, the short answer to your question is — “Umm, duh.”
    We could rely on pre-election, pre-inauguration rhetoric designed to build bridges and win position — but that’d be unreliable at worst and silly at best.
    In fact, the only reason to put forward your line is to sow doubt among those who believe Barack Obama is a game-changer. If you can persuade the gullible that Obama will bow to the Establishment’s status quo, then progressives who want a safer world, a just foreign policy and an equitable resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli Death Embrace will quiver with dread and frustration. Right?
    I fully expect President Obama to maintain some longstanding components of American foreign policy. Even when his objectives differ in the near term and long run, he may well employ familiar statesman-like rhetoric until certain benchmarks are achieved and decisions are reached.
    What you forget is that Hillary Clinton was all for a two-state solution, and Joe Biden is hardly the neocon many a strident torch-bearing ideologue would have you believe. All three are gonna maintain American security interests, so it won’t be an unfamiliar show — just executed effectively.

    Reply

  35. ... says:

    jdledell Dec 28, 8:08PM post sums it up well and wigwag wiggles away from even acknowledging jdledell’s post… that sums up a lot about wigwag…

    Reply

  36. Rachel says:

    How arrogant. You really believe that the US can exert any kind of control on Islamic fundamentalist extremists like the Hamas?
    I don’t know what planet you are living on – evidently Washington DC has been beamed elsewhere.
    Back down on our planet, Earth, there are real aliens, real monsters who prefer paradise to this life. They will trade your life and mine any day of the week to get there.
    By the way, you are welcome to send your children to the high school my son goes to here in Israel where sirens go off everyday and kids have to run to bomb shelters as part of the curriculum.

    Reply

  37. Paul Norheim says:

    I agree with WigWag here.
    One thing is cherry picking from Obamas many statements
    because you want your expectations confirmed; an other thing is
    cherry picking from all those things he NEVER said.

    Reply

  38. WigWag says:

    “Indications are these events are occurring for pretty much the inverse of what you assert.”
    Which indications are those?
    “Once he’s in command, I’m sure the difference will be clear to everybody.”
    If you are saying that Obama could repudiate his express comments made during the campaign, I agree; that’s certainly possible. Many Presidents say one thing for public consumption and then do something else once in office. (“Read my lips, no new taxes” comes to mind).
    If you’re saying that Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, Obama’s two most important foreign policy advisors could adopt a different point of view than they have been expressing for years; I also think that’s possible (doubtful, but possible).
    But if you’re sure that “once he’s in command, the difference will be clear to everybody” my question is; why are you sure? What exactly is the evidence that your basing your confidence on?

    Reply

  39. Paul Norheim says:

    “It’s likely that Ehud Barak, with or without Bush, a) is acting
    before a Prznt. Obama can intervene; b) is acting to put the future
    Prznt. Obama in a corner, and control the arrangement of the
    game board Obama faces; and/or c) is making his grab for assets
    and position prior to having to deal with the new Prznt., testing
    Obama’s mettle in the process.” (rich)
    Yes this is likely. It is more unlikely, however, that Obama would
    have chosen Hillary Clinton as his Sec. of State if he really had
    decided to create a Middle East policy strategy that would piss of
    AIPAC.

    Reply

  40. rich says:

    wigwag
    Obama is not President — and it’s extremely doubtful Ehud Barak, let alone you, know what Barack Obama’s Middle East policy will be.
    Obama’s been tacking rhetorically to win an election, forge alliances and open up a political space in which to operate. But there’s no way for you to divine Obama’s eventual decisions or policies based on a few speeches. Its a tenuous connection at best, and highly unlikely to have any continuity into the first two years of Obama’s first term.
    But your premise is not even remotely likely, given what we know of Barack Obama. I expect him to be far more hard-nosed and realistic than any of his detractors can conceive, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be carrying water for Kissinger, Bush or the Clintons (or anyone with similar views).
    Indications are these events are occurring for pretty much the inverse of what you assert. It’s likely that Ehud Barak, with or without Bush, a) is acting before a Prznt. Obama can intervene; b) is acting to put the future Prznt. Obama in a corner, and control the arrangement of the game board Obama faces; and/or c) is making his grab for assets and position prior to having to deal with the new Prznt., testing Obama’s mettle in the process.
    Candidate Obama’s comments about Israel and about Hamas should come as no surprise. You have to connect with and draw concessions from both parties in such circumstances. Presidents don’t have the luxury of, say, palling around with terrorists, or suddenly dropping off-the-cuff, seismic policy shifts or unexpected revelations in the middle of campaign speeches, and not in the midst of volatile international crises. So, nothing unexpected or surprising or disappointing going on there.
    We haven’t seen the reality of the ship of state under President Barack Obama’s direction yet. Once he’s in command, I’m sure the difference will be clear to everybody.
    But assigning Ehud Barak’s actions to Barack Obama’s strategy — before he’s even President — is silly. There’s lots of people looking to saddle Obama with unmanageable situations and policy decisions that’ll be hard to fix or reverse. Ehud isn’t the first.

    Reply

  41. Paul Norheim says:

    Sorry – it got all messed up above.
    Here we go again:
    Dan Kervick said above in this thread:
    “The less optimistic alternative is that the Israelis expect a
    predictable cycle of counterattacks, sabotage, terrorism,
    kidnappings and and hostile rhetoric from its regional enemies,
    and are laying the groundwork here for staged escalation to a
    broader military campaign, including an air strike on Iran. Let’s
    see where Israel’s public diplomacy goes. If we begin to get a
    ratcheted-up series of revelations, accusations related to Iran.”
    Dan, this one is for you – from David Horovitz, editor in chief of
    Jerusalem Post (the quote is from JP today):
    “The same Iran is openly challenging not just the Middle East
    order but the world order, with President Mahmoud
    Ahmadinejad personifying that challenge, thoroughly backed by
    the entire Teheran regime.
    And that same Iran is moving ever closer to the nuclear
    capability it intends to use in the service of its goals.
    The long-term deterrence of Hamas’s capacity to threaten Israel
    would represent the long-term deterrence of one aspect of
    Iran’s rapacious and far-reaching power drive. That’s an
    outcome of Operation “Cast Lead” that at least part of the
    watching world might appreciate – if Israel can manage, first, to
    explain it clearly, and then to achieve it.”

    Reply

  42. Paul Norheim says:

    Iran is inspiring, funding, arming and training Hamas.
    Iran is avowedly committed to Israel’s destruction, and regards
    Hamas as a tool toward this goal.
    The same Iran, via an emboldened Hizbullah, is now most of the
    way to achieving proxy control not merely of southern Lebanon,
    but all of Lebanon.
    The same Iran, already armed with missiles that can reach Israel,
    is extending its missile range to Europe and, it hopes, ultimately
    to North America.
    Dan Kervick said above in this thread:
    “The less optimistic alternative is that the Israelis expect a
    predictable cycle of counterattacks, sabotage, terrorism,
    kidnappings and and hostile rhetoric from its regional enemies,
    and are laying the groundwork here for staged escalation to a
    broader military campaign, including an air strike on Iran. Let’s
    see where Israel’s public diplomacy goes. If we begin to get a
    ratcheted-up series of revelations, accusations related to Iran.”
    Dan, this one is for you – from David Horovitz, editor in chief of
    Jerusalem Post (the quote is from JP today):
    “The same Iran is openly challenging not just the Middle East
    order but the world order, with President Mahmoud
    Ahmadinejad personifying that challenge, thoroughly backed by
    the entire Teheran regime.
    And that same Iran is moving ever closer to the nuclear
    capability it intends to use in the service of its goals.
    The long-term deterrence of Hamas’s capacity to threaten Israel
    would represent the long-term deterrence of one aspect of
    Iran’s rapacious and far-reaching power drive. That’s an
    outcome of Operation “Cast Lead” that at least part of the
    watching world might appreciate – if Israel can manage, first, to
    explain it clearly, and then to achieve it.”

    Reply

  43. bdbd says:

    I think that the now ongoing exchange between Israel and Hamas is not only a testing of the Obama administration, it is also a recognition by the parties in the region of the utter irrelevance of the Bush administration as its days wind down. If Obama and his team will be calling the shots come Jan 20, and if it is unclear or uncertain how shots will be called by them, why not try to rearrange the board while circumstances are providing a free 3 or 4 weeks?

    Reply

  44. WigWag says:

    And then there’s this:
    Gaza Crisis Is Another Foreign Challenge for Obama, Who Defers to Bush
    By STEVEN LEE MYERS and HELENE COOPER
    NY Times, Published: December 28, 2008
    “By the time he arrived in Israel in July, Obama suggested he would not even consider talks without a fundamental shift in Hamas and its behavior, effectively moving his policy much closer to President Bush’s. “In terms of negotiations with Hamas, it is very hard to negotiate with a group that is not representative of a nation-state, does not recognize your right to exist, has consistently used terror as a weapon, and is deeply influenced by other countries,” he said.”
    It’s hard to understand why Steve thinks Barak is “Hijacking Obama’s Middle East Strategy.”
    This New York Times article makes clear that by bombing Gaza, Barak is implementing Obama’s Middle East Strategy.

    Reply

  45. Susan says:

    I think Daniel Levy very much downplays the hardships and deaths faced by people in Gaza over the last six months. Israel was trying to starve them, and they reminded me very much of the attack on the Warsaw ghetto.
    I condemn Israel for this violence and destruction of Gaza.
    I condemn the USA for the violence and destruction of Iraq.

    Reply

  46. WigWag says:

    More on Barack Obama’s position on Gaza
    Gaza Crisis Is Another Foreign Challenge for Obama, Who Defers to Bush
    By STEVEN LEE MYERS and HELENE COOPER
    NY Times, Published: December 28, 2008
    WASHINGTON — When President-elect Barack Obama visited Israel in July — to the very town, in fact, whose repeated shelling culminated in this weekend’s new fighting in Gaza — he all but endorsed the punishing Israeli attacks now unfolding.
    “If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to everything in my power to stop that,” he told reporters in Sderot, a small city on the edge of Gaza that has been attacked repeatedly by rocket fire. “And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

    Reply

  47. rich says:

    Haaretz sheds some light and common sense — contradicting the Israeli PR line they bombed in retaliation for Hamas’ rockets.
    “Zvi Barel writes: “Six months ago Israel asked and received a cease-fire from Hamas. It unilaterally violated it when it blew up a tunnel, while still asking Egypt to get the Islamic group to hold its fire.” Yet the U.S. media refers that only Hamas violated the ceasefire.”
    So Israel violated the cease-fire.
    Another Haaretz analysis:
    “A million and a half human beings, most of them downcast and desperate refugees, live in the conditions of a giant jail, fertile ground for another round of bloodletting. The fact that Hamas may have gone too far with its rockets is not the justification of the Israeli policy for the past few decades, for which it justly merits an Iraqi shoe to the face.”
    The lead Haaretz editorial:
    “[T]he inherent desire for retribution does not necessarily have to blind us to the view from the day after….Israel’s violation of the lull in November expedited the deterioration that gave birth to the war of yesterday. But even if this continues for many days and even weeks, it will end in an agreement, or at least an understanding similar to that reached last June.”
    Another Haaretz column:
    Neighborhood Bully Strikes Again” — by Gideon Levy: “Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: ‘Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn’t be provoked into anger… Not that the bully’s not right – someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!’ Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation ‘Cast Lead’ is only in its infancy.”
    Haaretz columnist Yossi Sarid writes: “I can only hope that this time, for a change, we will know when to stop. This war must be described from the get-go as a war ‘to be on the safe side,’ rather than of necessity, and it is still unclear whether the last missile fired will be fired by us or by them.”
    Amira Hass, the paper’s correspondent in Gaza, reports: “There are many corpses and wounded, every moment another casualty is added to the list of the dead, and there is no more room in the morgue. Relatives search among the bodies and the wounded in order to bring the dead quickly to burial. A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent.”
    All quotes published in Haaretz, courtesy Greg Mitchell. Isn’t it time to stop pretending Israel acted in self-defense? Gaza Strip is a ghetto — and keeping it that way will only result in more Palestinian military actions designed to secure their survival, and a path to self-determination. Can anyone legitimately advocate denying them the opportunity to build a viable future? Or maintain the status quo is just, or will not end in disaster?
    The Independent, a major d.aily in London has an eyewitness account, ending with: “These bombs were launched by Israel, as we had known they would be. The world watched the situation simmer then boil over, but did nothing. There are some who believe that hell is divided into different classes. The ordinary people of Gaza have long been caught in the tormenting underworld. Now, if the world does not heed what has happened here, our situation will worsen. We will be trapped in the first class of hell.”
    http://tinyurl.com/9nn53y

    Reply

  48. jdledell says:

    wigwam – You are naive at the very least. You claim that the West Bank Palestinians can have a bright future. Who are you trying to kid. I was in Israel in Novemeber listening to various Cabinet members assure the settlers on the status of peace negotiations. Here is the deal – the Palestinians get about 75% of the west bank with Israel getting 25 years to remove the settlements that will ultimately give them about 91.7%. Israel retains control of the West Bank aquifers and all water resources in Palestinian territory. In addition, Israel controls the Jordan border and ALL ingress and egrees from the WEest Bank is forever under Israel control. Jerusalem for the Palestinians was a dead issue with the expansion of Har Homa meaning East Jerusalem is forever cut off from the rest of the West Bank.
    Wigwam – This peace crap has been going on for 40 years including the intensive Annapolis talks. If Israel really wants peace they could have had at any time over the past couple decades if they would be fair. Meanwhile the settlements expand and new ones crop up and within 10 years a two state solution will be impossible. Do you realize there are 500,000 Jews on the other side of the Green Line? Do you really think Israel would move them? That’s why the peace talks always remain talk – Israel could not move these people. That is why we get delays and subject changes(like the Gaza bombing) to indefinitely delay the time when Israel has to make serious decisions.

    Reply

  49. WigWag says:

    “But Hamas may be strengthened by these military operations. And Barak/Livni may be so caught up in an unpredictable chain of provocations and replies between Israel and Hamas (and possibly others as well) that Netanyahu may appear as a savior at election time.”
    Could be. Only time will tell.
    “The Palestinians will be the losers in any thinkable scenario, and this is bad news for Israel as well in the long run.”
    Not necessarily. The Gaza Palestinians will certainly be losers. It is hard to imagine any happy scenario for them. They have very few friends. The founding political movement of the Palestinian people hates the leaders of Gaza, (Hamas) even more than they hate the Israelis. And there’s not a Sunni Arab government that is willing to offer them anything but rhetorical support (and they’re even stingy with the rhetorical support). The Europeans and the Americans consider their elected leaders to be terrorists and won’t talk to them. Their only friends are the Iranians, the Syrians and Hezbollah. If oil prices remain low, their major patron (Iran) faces an economic cataclysm. If Syria signs a peace deal with Israel it will be a disaster for Hamas. And it’s doubtful how long a relationship between a fundamentalist Shiite movement (Hezbollah) and a fundamentalist Sunni movement (Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood) can survive.
    On the other hand, I think the West Bank Palestinians can have a bright future. The biggest obstacle to peace for them is all of the people who insist that they can’t have peace without forging a political alliance with Hamas. If we have to wait for Hamas and Fatah to bury the hatchet before the Palestinians can have peace with the Israelis, the Palestinians are going to be waiting forever.
    I think there is some possibility that if the Obama Administration really puts pressure on Israel, the West Bank Palestinians can get a reasonably good deal for themselves. It is possible that Kadima/Labor might be willing to give up the settlements, reach an agreement on Jerusalem along the lines of what Bill Clinton negotiated in 2000 and use the Walter Russell Mead blue print for the Palestinian refugees.
    Is the likelihood of this great? Not in my opinion. Is it possible? Sure.
    But the one thing the West Bank Palestinians will need to do to make all of this possible is to remove the chain weighing them down. That chain is the fundamentalist Hamas movement. Unless Hamas is jettisoned, the chances that the West Bank Palestinians can get a good peace agreement are near zero.

    Reply

  50. Paul Norheim says:

    I have to add that if anything along those lines will happen, I am
    convinced that the Palestinians will be the losers in the
    negotiations.
    But Hamas may be strengthened by these military operations.
    And Barak/Livni may be so caught up in an unpredictable chain
    of provocations and replies between Israel and Hamas (and
    possibly others as well) that Netanyahu may appear as a savior
    at election time.
    The Palestinians will be the losers in any thinkable scenario, and
    this is bad news for Israel as well in the long run.
    But a scenario along the lines above may be a win-win situation
    for the rest of the players: Syria, Iran, US – Israel as well, in its
    relations to its neighbors outside its borders.

    Reply

  51. WigWag says:

    “And if they succeed in making an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement, it will imply breaking the Tehran-Damascus-Beirut link, thus weakening Iran’s position and ability to influence the Israel-Palestine conflict.
    And an Israeli-Syrian-Palestinian peace agreement may be regarded as preparation before direct talks between Washington and Tehran.”
    Paul,I believe that you are exactly correct! I think that’s exactly the way it’s going to play out. But it all depends on Livni and Barak forming the next government, not Netanyahu.
    And I think there will either be some type of interim agreement with the West Bank Palestinians or a massive American led campaign to dramatically improve their standard of living. The Palestinians in Gaza will be left out and despite being weakened militarily, Hamas will still control Gaza. There will be repeated skirmishes between Israel and Hamas controlled Gaza and the civil war between the West Bank Palestinians and the Gazans will not be settled; it will get worse.
    I think Obama and Israel will both come to terms with a nuclear armed Iran and that negotiations with Iran will center on preventing them from becoming proliferators. To make all of this palatable to Israel and the Sunni Arab world and to prevent Saudi Arabia from developing its own nuclear arsenal to protect themselves from Iran, Obama will do two things: (1)he will increase Israel’s second strike capability (which is the essence of deterrence)by selling Israel nuclear submarines and the B2 bomber and (2)he will publicly place Israel and all of the Sunni Arab states under the US nuclear umbrella which means that he will adopt Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that if Iran attacks Israel or any Sunni Arab state with nuclear weapons, the U.S. will launch a nuclear attack on Iran. There’s nothing unprecedented about this; it’s exactly what the US (through NATO) did with many non-nuclear European States.
    This will go a long way to eliminate the fear that Israel and the Sunnis have of Iran. It will forestall an Israeli attack on Iran, it will facilitate improved relationships between Israel and the Sunni Arabs and it will clear the way for a US rapprochement with Iran.
    The US and the Soviet Union had a perfectly workable relationship for 40 years under a mutually assured destruction scenario; the US and Iran can too.
    But if Netanyahu wins or if Hamas is not weakened; all bets are off.

    Reply

  52. Paul Norheim says:

    WigWag,
    you know very well why the Palestinian Authority and Egypt
    blame Hamas; they (as well as the US) have each different
    motives for doing so.
    BTW, it`s unlikely that Washington wasn`t informed before the
    attacks on Saturday – and yes, it is also unlikely that Rice or
    others didn`t inform President-elect Obama before the events.
    I also agree completely that Obama would like to see Hamas
    severely weakened.
    The unfolding events could be interpreted as preparations for
    political negotiations dealing with the bigger picture.
    First Ehud Barak will have to win the election against Netanyahu.
    Then a Peace Summit at Camp David may be arranged, let`s say
    in the autumn of 2009, A rendez-vous between Barak and
    Clinton at Camp David, sans Arafat!
    The participants: Ehud Barak from Israel, Abbas from the
    Palestinian Authority, al-Assad from Syria, and Obama, as well
    as Hillary and Bill Clintons from the US.
    And if they succeed in making a Israeli-Syrian peace agreement,
    it will imply breaking the Tehran-Damascus-Beirut link, thus
    weakening Iran`s position and ability to influence the
    Israel/Palestine conflict.
    And an Israeli-Syrian-Palestinian peace agreement may be
    regarded as preparations before direct talks between
    Washington and Tehran.
    I would guess that several high ranking officials in the Middle
    East and Washington are speculating along similar lines right
    now. The citizens in Gaza are paying the price.

    Reply

  53. JohnH says:

    “It looks like Obama, Mubarak and Abbas all see this thing exactly the same way. Who would have thunk it?”
    Arab governments only care about Palestinians in proportion to their ability to rile up the citizenry for better or worse. The problems in the Occupied Territories are beneficial to the tyrants when they distract from their own misrule (Israel uses the Palestinian bogeyman the same way and to stir up AIPAC). Alternatively, a citizenry riled up by the oppression of Palestinians can create problems for the tyrants.
    Abbas and his Israeli connected business interests have no love for Hamas, either, because they represent legitimacy and competition.
    No, it’s not at all surprising that corrupt officialdom don’t want to disrupt the status quo, not matter how dire the human rights situation. Just like business interests did not want to disrupt cozy relationships with Hitler, despite Hitler’s known ethnic cleansing policies of the late 1930’s.

    Reply

  54. alan says:

    Don’t hold your breath for Obama doing anything different. Be sure Netanyahu(Yahoo?) will take advantage of this. Both the Israelis (admittedly not all of them) and Hamas/Hezbollah will gain temporary benefits for their political opportunism. Meanwhile civilians in Gaza will die for some “greater bad”. Let’s be clear: the US under whoever is President will not move against Israel. Likewise Iran will not move against Hezbollah/Hamas. On both sides we have the quintessential trimmers.

    Reply

  55. Reminder says:

    During the campaign, Obama made crystal clear that he would steadfastly stand behind whatever Israel did under the ostensible purpose of protecting itself. Anyone who believed that he would make any departure from America’s staunchly pro-Israel stance was either self-deluded or willfully ignorant. As he said during the campaign, “I have been proud to be a part of a strong, bipartisan consensus that has stood by Israel in the face of all threats . . . I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. That starts with ensuring Israel’s qualitative military advantage.” I am neither agreeing nor disagreeing with this statement; I am simply pointing out that the people who expected that he would be somehow more “evenhanded” in his approach were just plain stupid.

    Reply

  56. WigWag says:

    Not only is the complete silence of the Obama Administration telling, so is the reaction of Arab Governments.
    The Palestinian Authority seems to blame Hamas for breaking the truce, not Israel. But what do they know? There’s simply no question that those Washington Note read who think it’s all Israel’s fault are much more tuned in to the facts on the ground in Palestine than President Abbas is.
    Here’s what Abbas had to say:
    “At a press conference in Cairo with the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abuol Gheit, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, said that Hamas was responsible for the people in Gaza and for every drop of blood spilled there. Mr. Abbas said that the Israeli attack on Gaza could have been prevented, and that he had asked Hamas directly and indirectly to extend the truce.” (New York Times, By TAGHREED EL-KHODARY and ISABEL KERSHNER
    Published: December 28, 2008)
    And here’s what the Egyptians think of Hamas:
    “Witnesses in Rafah described chaotic scenes along the border with young Palestinian men trying to dash across and sporadic exchanges of fire between Egyptian forces and Hamas.” (New York Times, By TAGHREED EL-KHODARY and ISABEL KERSHNER Published: December 28, 2008)
    “An Egyptian security official said there were at least five breaches along the 9 mile (14 kilometer) border and hundreds of Palestinian residents were pouring in. At least 300 Egyptian border guards rushed to the area to reseal the border, the official added…A resident of the Gaza Strip side of the border, Fida Kishta, said that Egyptian border guards opened fire to drive back the Palestinians…Egyptian state television reported that Hamas security forces shot an Egyptian border guard and killed him. An Egyptian security source said Hamas forces had also shot an Egyptian policeman in the leg.” (8/12/2008
    By Haaretz Service and News Agencies
    It looks like Obama, Mubarak and Abbas all see this thing exactly the same way.
    Who would have thunk it?

    Reply

  57. JohnH says:

    Once again, you can’t assume that the Israeli government knows what it’s doing. This from Ha’aretz:
    “Understanding is no substitute for wisdom, and the inherent desire for retribution does not necessarily have to blind us to the view from the day after. The expression “time for combat” still does not elucidate the goals of the assault…A public that has learned from experience cannot assume once again that the government knows what it is doing, particularly since its leaders have struggled in formulating a consistent stance in recent weeks.”
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050461.html
    Hmmm–sounds like Iraq and Afghanistan to me. Either the government doesn’t have a clue as to what it’s doing, or it sees no reason to share its agenda with its people.
    In America, it’s what happens when the energy security complex hijacks the government; in Israel, the IDF/military complex.
    Strange how foreign policy blogs like this continuously seem to forget about asking about why we’re doing what we’re doing. Could it indicate complicity?

    Reply

  58. carol says:

    My hope is that PE Obama will have a different mind set in regard to dealing with this Israeli/Palestine conflict that what we have now.
    I think our constant siding with Israel over anything they do against the Palestine people sends the wrong message and I don’t know how that can ever put us in a good light as “honest brokers” in this situation, he said he will talk to “our enemies” as well as friends so I hope that will be the case here.
    We can’t dismiss talking to Hamas, after all they are the chosen leaders of Palestine whether we or Israel like it or not…..we can’t just keep saying they are “terrorists”, they have a right to be heard also….talks were held with the IRA by the UK and talks were held with Gen Gadaffi from Libya and both of those were known as “terrorists”.
    So the time has come for us to be bold enough to speak to Hamas and the Israeli side in a fair and balanced way to try and resolve this ongoing issue!!

    Reply

  59. questions says:

    Doesn’t it all just feel so ridiculously overdetermined? I can’t even see the point in commenting anymore. All the incentives for each party’s actions are laid out. The settlers get holiness, and by the way they are given tax incentives or direct payments or cheap housing to settle at the beyond-the-border areas. The rocket attacks make perfect sense in response. The Israelis cannot tolerate the rocket attacks for very long….
    Transfer the situation to the US/Mexican or Canadian border — same kinds of things would happen.
    And EVERYone is justified in acting the way they do in a completely insane and untenable, but highly profitable and psychically satisfying situation. Everyone feel he/she is the good guy and the other players are bad bad bad. What more could you want out of life?
    My Israeli aunt now thinks we should look at history and remember people have been killing each other for forever. What’s different this time? The numbness goes in deeper, the killings continue and seem logical.
    Keep up the outrage and maybe it’ll touch someone’s nerve? Is there even a policy solution, or are some things beyond policy?
    I am at a loss, and on the edge of losing my mother, and a little tired of the death industry, I have to admit.

    Reply

  60. Gabby says:

    >They MUST shut down the internet, or exercise complete control over it, to continue their abstraction of reality for public consumption.<
    Pissedoffamerican, you are right. And the ADL just partnered with youtube to help them decide what is hate speech. Deletions a-comin’. The censors continue their missions.

    Reply

  61. Gabby says:

    Paul Findley wrote about it years ago, no one listened. Too much power in too few hands.
    Taking a quote from estouxim@MofA:
    ************
    With the brief interruption of the crusades Palestine was for about 1200 years the perfect example of religious tolerance and peace. The Balfour Declaration, the British conquest, the terms of the Society of Nations for the British Mandate and the subsequent mass arrival of ashkenazi jews pursuing the colonial zionist enterprise is what divided Palestinian society.

    Of course it is portrayed to us as a religious conflict, one where backward and intolerant muslims fight enlightenment and “democracy”. That’s no wonder when the hegemonic culture is shaped and controlled by members of the same group that overwhelmingly support the zionist enterprise, namely, the (mostly ashkenazi) jewish community in the US.

    The most effective way to help the Palestinians, and the Israelis, is to spread the deconstruction of the zionist narrative, particularly in the US where it generates
    *********

    Reply

  62. ... says:

    i think of the internet as the great equalizer.. i agree with you poa.. in order for propaganda to continue to reign those in favour of it will need to come up with some robotic type activity for the internet, whereby the wigwags of the world are not actual people, but programmed comments designed further the usual propaganda talking points..

    Reply

  63. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Obama has already been “tested” as to how he will react to Israeli atrocities by his selection of Rahm and Hillary. Here you have two career Washington politicians that have condoned and justified Israel’s actions throughout their careers. Hillary never did condemn Israel’s clusterbombing of the Lebanese people, and in fact lauded Israel’ actions against Lebanon. NONE of these complicit monsters have called for any action by the world community as to holding Israel accountable for this horrendous and lillegal targeting of civilian non-combatants. In fact, Hillary was AIPAC’s first choice for the presidency, and she is the Defense industry’s darling as well.
    Those of you still hanging onto a shred of hope that Obama represents real “change” are fools, because even before assuming the throne Obama has told us all we need to know about how he intends to continue our march away from a representative government. His comments that Bush has not exceeded his authority to an impeachable degree is a true window into Obama’s mindset.
    This morning, on C-Span’s call in show, I was struck by how many callers were decrying Israel’s actions, pointing out the atrocities committed by Israel, and lamenting Israel’s stranglehold on US foreign policies. Such a volume of calls against Israel would have been unheard of a little as a year ago. Considering the mass media’s complete failure to report the facts on the plight of the Palestinians, one can only assume that the internet has assumed a far greater role in informing the American public. In turn, we can assume that the next assault Israel will launch against the best interstests of the United States citizenry, will be an assault on our access to information. The truth is just getting too easy for us to access. Look for efforts by Washington to rein the internet, under the guise of advancing this fuckin’ con-job known as “The Global War On Terrorism”. The efforts are already underway, and we can expect them to escalate. Propaganda simply cannot prevail over the openness and honesty of the internet. Criminals like Cheney and Bush cannot ply their crimes un-noticed, and entities such as AIPAC can’t spread their lies unhampered. They MUST shut down the internet, or exercise complete control over it, to continue their abstraction of reality for public consumption.

    Reply

  64. ... says:

    is see the KKK have still been having some success with the “obama is not a us citizen” argument..

    Reply

  65. ... says:

    pw – that is exactly right.. as for obama declaring anything other then subservience to israel, i wouldn’t hold my breath.. it seems being an american politician means you have to bow down to israel and have no other choices..

    Reply

  66. Ted says:

    ROADMAP TO ADDRESS THE LOOMING CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS:
    Since the Supreme Court has now prevented itself from acknowledging the question of whether Barack H. Obama is or is not an Article II “natural born citizen” based on the Kenyan/British citizenship of Barack Obama’s father at the time of his birth (irrespective of whether Barack Obama is deemed a “citizen” born in Hawaii or otherwise) as a prerequisite to qualifying to serve as President of the United States under the Constitution — the Court having done so at least three times and counting, first before the Nov 4 general election and twice before the Dec 15 vote of the College of Electors — it would seem appropriate, if not necessary, for all Executive Branch departments and agencies to secure advance formal advice from the United States Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel as to how to respond to expected inquiries from federal employees who are pledged to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” as to whether they are governed by laws, regulations, orders and directives issued under Mr. Obama during such periods that said employees, by the weight of existing legal authority and prior to a decision by the Supreme Court, believe in good faith that Mr. Obama is not an Article II “natural born citizen”.
    Moreover, each and every member of Congress should be notified that he or she is personally liable (can be sued) for his or her own failure, or the same in conspiracy with other members, to perform what is a ministerial and constitutional duty, that is, to require and/or insist that Presidential electoral votes only be counted for candidates who are “natural born citizens” under Article II of the United States Constitution, the failure of which creates a cause of action for deprivation of claimants’ constitutional rights (as allowed under the Bivens case) against employees of the Federal Government, in this case, to a lawful President and Commander in Chief, and therefore, for deprivation of adequate continuation of the United States as a Constitutional Republic. The constitutionally tortious conduct is not subject to congressional immunity and would be the jettison of Article II of the Constitution by failure to stop and/or object to the counting of electoral votes for Barack H. Obama who has admitted that at the time of his birth his father was a Kenyan/British citizen and not a citizen of the United States of America.
    Finally, if 1/20/09 comes and goes with a usurper in the Whitehouse (that is, Obama is definitely NOT an Article II “natural born citizen” — dad Kenyan/British citizen at BHO’s birth — albeit he MAY be a 14th Amendment “citizen”) with usurper enablers in Congress and the Supreme Court … God help us because many of the people will — rightfully and under our Constitution and Declaration of Independence — endeavor through other means to take back the Government from what is nothing less than a non-constitutional coup d’etat. (SCOTUS now does have the power to forestall that grim yet inevitable scenario, otherwise the blood and possible loss of our Constitutional Republic is SQUARELY ON THEIR HEADS.)

    Reply

  67. pw says:

    Each time Israel overreacts (a bad habit getting worse), it loses even more friends. Increasing numbers of Americans are now turning against Israel (see comments above and elsewhere). That’s sad enough, but add hundreds of thousands around the world who have lost sympathy for that nation and realize that Israel has a serious problem. The world can’t afford the anguish and bitterness Israel provokes. I hope Obama will make it clear that we can’t continue to be a friend of Israel if Israel continues to act with the kind of cruelty and hubris America itself has just been through with the Bush /Cheney administration. Enough.

    Reply

  68. WigWag says:

    Yes, the deafening silence from Obama so far is very interesting. It strengthens my hypothesis that he knew about the Israeli plans ahead of time and he approved them (or at least acquiesced to them).
    The more I think about Steve Clemons’ assertion that Livni and Barak launched the bombing campaign against Gaza to “test” the incoming Obama Administration, the less supportable I think it is.
    For that to be right, you have to believe that Obama planned to open contacts with Hamas in the hope of luring them in to the peace process in a constructive way. That may be the strategy that Steve recommends along with others like Brzezinsli and Scowcroft. Although I disagree with it, it may turn out to be right.
    The problem with Steve’s thesis is that there’s no evidence that Obama agrees with it and alot of circumstantial evidence that he doesn’t.
    If we look at Obama’s Presidential Campaign, any advisor who recommended talking to Gaza, like Robert Malley, was exiled; never to be heard from again.
    One of the reasons Barack Obama selected Joe Biden is because of Biden’s long record of accomplishment in foreign policy; but of course Biden has been one of the toughest critics of Hamas and has never advocated doing anything but isolating them.
    And once he was elected, if Obama wanted to soften US policy towards Hamas he could have appointed people like Lincoln Chafee, Chuck Hagel or even Zbig Brzezinski as Secretary of State or Defense. They all would have opened lines of communication with Hamas, but Obama’s shunned them. They’re nowhere to be found.
    Instead, Obama selected Clinton and Gates. Neither of them has shown the slightest inclination to deal with Hamas.
    But perhaps the greatest evidence that Obama has no interest in engaging Hamas is his own words.
    This is what it currently says (as of 12 noon) on his website, change.gov:
    Israel:
    Ensure a Strong U.S.-Israel Partnership: Barack Obama and Joe Biden strongly support the U.S.-Israel relationship, and believe that our first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel, America’s strongest ally in the region. They support this closeness, and have stated that the United States will never distance itself from Israel.
    Support Israel’s Right to Self Defense: During the July 2006 Lebanon war, Barack Obama stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hezbollah raids and rocket attacks, cosponsoring a Senate resolution against Iran and Syria’s involvement in the war, and insisting that Israel should not be pressured into a ceasefire that did not deal with the threat of Hezbollah missiles. He and Joe Biden believe strongly in Israel’s right to protect its citizens.
    Support Foreign Assistance to Israel: Barack Obama and Joe Biden have consistently supported foreign assistance to Israel. They defend and support the annual foreign aid package that involves both military and economic assistance to Israel and have advocated increased foreign aid budgets to ensure that these funding priorities are met. They have called for continuing U.S. cooperation with Israel in the development of missile defense systems.”
    On Obama’s Campaign Website, BarckObama.com (which is still up) this is what it says:
    “Work towards Ending Hamas Rocket Attacks: In his visit to Israel on July 23, 2008, Barack Obama visited the Israeli town of Sderot and stood in solidarity with its residents, who have endured an endless onslaught of Hamas’ Qassam rockets. On that day, he declared: “The state of Israel faces determined enemies who seek its destruction. But it also has a friend and ally in the United States that will always stand by the people of Israel.
    That’s why I’m proud to be here today and that’s why I will work from the moment that I return to America, to tell the story of Sderot and to make sure that the good people who live here are enjoying a future of peace and security and hope.” [Press Conference, 7/23/08] In January, 2008, Senator Obama sent a letter to our United Nations Representative urging that any resolution concerning the situation in Gaza should “clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks against Israel, and should make clear that Israel has the right to defend itself against such actions.” [Letter to Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, 1/22/08]”
    This is an exact quote of what Barack Obama said over and over again on the campaign trail (a quick youtube search will allow you to see him saying it or you can read the quote on BarackObama.com):
    “I opposed Hamas’ participation in the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections, and I continue to insist that Hamas recognize Israel, abandon violence, and abide by previous agreements made between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Until they do that the United States will not recognize Hamas as a legitimate actor, at least if I’m President.”
    His campaign advisors, his cabinet appointments and his own words (written and oral) plainly rule out legitimizing Hamas (unless they jump through the hoops Israel and the United States want them to). And they plainly endorse the type of action Israel is currently taking.
    By bombing Gaza, Ehud Barak isn’t testing Obama; he’s following through on Obama’s own suggestion.

    Reply

  69. JohnH says:

    Yep, if Bush, Cheney or Rice say it, you can count on the opposite being true. Which is why she has been the least effective Secretary of State since WWII.
    It’s amazing that any serious journalist would bother to waste his/her time recording what she says.

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  70. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So Rice blames Hamas for the current carnage.
    Uhm, didn’t a Congressional committee just determine that Rice is a God damned perjuring liar?? What the hell can Rice say that can be believed?
    Its amazing. The same sacks of shit that we KNEW were lying to us six years ago, are STILL lying to us as if they were still credible. Why, pray tell, should we believe one single thing that comes out of Rice’s mouth?
    And Obama??? Not a word. Hell, if he points out Rice’s lies, someone might point the finger at HIS bullshit after he slithers into the Oval Office.
    Even the Huffington post is giving us this crap about Hamas being the sole culpable antagonist, with only tepid condemnation of Israel’s actions.
    One can only conclude that Israel, over the passage of time, is going to be allowed to exterminate an entire people. Using our money, our weapons, and our blessings. Meanwhile, we can proudly place the souls of over a million Iraqi non-combatants in our trophy case.
    On to Iran. Heck, with a little effort, and some Israeli asasistance, we might be able to get the kill count into ther billions. Hallelujah!

    Reply

  71. JohnH says:

    Sometimes silence speaks louder than words. Obama’s silence is truly mystifying for it makes the new administration complicit in Israeli actions. Before taking office, Israel has already eroded his political capital and raised doubts about his intentions in the Arab world.
    As Daniel Levy points out, “recruiters to the most radical of causes are again cashing in. If Osama Bin Laden is indeed a cave-dweller these days then U.S. intel should be listening out for a booming echo of laughter. Demonstrations across the Arab world and contributors to the ever-proliferating Arabic language news media and blogosphere hold the U.S., and not just Israel, responsible for what happened today (and that is a position taken, for good reasons, by sensible folk, not hard-liners). America’s allies in the region are again running for cover. America’s standing, its interests and security are all deeply affected.”
    http://www.prospectsforpeace.com/2008/12/what_next_on_gazaisrael_and_wh.html
    Change–such a nice slogan!

    Reply

  72. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Rereading Steve’s postings here on this current Israeli effort to eradicate a few more starving Palestinians, it strikes me just how truly tepid both his, and J Street’s, condemnation of Israel’s actions truly are.
    Its quite telling that neither J Street nor Steve mention the blockades, border closures, and sanctions while decrying the actions of Hamas, or lightly spanking Israel’s hand. Its always this bullshit. Rocket attacks, rocket attacks, rocket attacks, ad nauseum, as if the Palestinians would be in Fat City if they would just stop lobbing crude inaccurate projectiles at Israel. Never mind the non-existent infrastructure. Never mind the raw sewage in the streets. Never mind the power outages. Never mind the food shortages. Never mind the poverty levels. Never mind the lack of medical supplies. Never mind the blockage of routes to work. Never mind the razing of olive orchards and farmlands. Never mind the theft of Palestinian land.
    Nope, its all about these terribly ineffective rocket attacks. Won’t those nasty sand niggers ever learn to starve quietly and peacefully? Troublesome savages, its a shame Israel can’t speed up the fumigation process, isn’t it, Yael? Well, 270 in 24 hours, thats not bad, eh? And, of course, that number will likely improve with no medical stores to adequately treat the wounded. Heck, Yael, with any luck, you and your fellow chosen ones can draw this thing out a month or two and get the kill numbers up into the thousands. Why heck, break out the clusterbombs, why doncha? Its a hell of a lot faster than starving them to death.

    Reply

  73. JohnH says:

    Yael–you see to be oblivious to the fact that Israel has been waging war on Gaza for the last year. No, not in the form of air attacks, but a blockade, which is generally considered war.
    Hamas largely kept to it cease fire, shutting down rocket attacks for a long while. Israel claimed to observe a cease fire but pursued its aggression by choking not punching. Now Israel has decided to choke and punch humiliated and starving Palestinians.

    Reply

  74. dwg says:

    For some interesting background – e.g. Israeli blockade of Gaza, Palestinian rocket attacks on Southern Israel, both of which preceded the current violence and both of which are causing the other to “blame the other.” for the failure of the ceasefire, see CounterPunch from November 17 here:
    http://www.counterpunch.org/cook11172008.html
    In my view, somewhat more balanced than what we are seeing in both blogs and most mainstream press. Very hard to get a countervailing view from Palestine since Israel controls the press in and out and has a very powerful media resources. This one is one of the better ones. The Palestinian or “arab” viewpoint is often filtered through other interests by third party countries such as Egypt, Syria or Lebanon.

    Reply

  75. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “You should be praying very hard for Israel to defeat their enemy in Gaza because HAMAS is your enemy too”
    Yes, you bastard zionist hawks have made sure of that, haven’t you?
    Totally correct, Yael. Israel, with the complicity of our leaders, have made sure that the United States shares enemies with Israel, WHETHER IT IS IN OUR BEST INTERESTS OR NOT.
    Frankly, in my opinion, we should stop feeding you billions of dollars so you can repeatedly fuck us over. Espionage shouldn’t be rewarded.
    Neither should clusterbombing civilians, starving populations, depriving children of medical supplies and care, razing farmlands, or stealing real estate.
    Yes, Yael, you have a valid point. Our support, subsidation, and complicity in Israeli atrocities HAS made us far less secure.

    Reply

  76. jonst says:

    WigWag wrote:
    “Can you imagine the Israelis and Hamas sitting down to negotiate? After they agreed on Jerusalem, borders, water rights, and refugees they could get down to the really hard stuff like what to do with the Masons and the Lions.
    Yes, this proves it; Hamas is a “potentially responsible steward of a Palestinian state.”
    I heard this all before. This is what they used to say about the PLO, and Black September, and various other front organizations. ‘these groups will never meet to negotiate’, ‘meet with the murders of the Israeli athletes?’ Never!’. Their charter calls for the destruction of the state of Israel’ And so on and so on……the white South African govt was never going to meet with the Marxist ANC. The British were never going to talk with Mau-Mau in Kenya. 15 years later Jomo Kenyatta is dancing with the Queen of England. And he is wearing formal wear. The US was never gonna talk with the ‘mad man Qaddafi’, the killer behind the Lockerbie crash. Next thing you know Condi is sitting cross-legged, in a tent, munching on Lamb Kebabs, with the good Col. It is always the same….right before you eventually talk to who you HAVE to talk to. To get what you need. You make the most noise about how you will never talk to them.
    You know, the British once called John Adams, Mad dog Adams, never were gonna sit with him. Next thing you know he was Ambassador to the Court of St James. Hitler was never going to talk with his sworn enemy the Soviet Union. Next thing you know Molotov was munching Chocolates up on Berchtesgaden.
    It is always the same.

    Reply

  77. Paul Norheim says:

    “JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni says there
    are no plans to occupy Gaza, after two days of airstrikes in the
    Palestinian territory and the callup of 6,500 Israeli reserve
    soldiers.”
    Is this credible? Just a “Shock and Awe” bombardment, 100 tons
    of bombs, followed by a declaration of “mission accomplished”?
    Sure Hamas (and/or others) will reply with more rockets, suicide
    bombers – and then what? Further signals of green light from
    Condoleezza Rice, I suppose, just like in August 2006.

    Reply

  78. Cee says:

    Yael,
    You need to worry about how long your failed state will last since Ehud is the one who doesn’t want a ceasefire.
    ISRAEL “cannot really accept” a ceasefire with Hamas, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a U.S. television interview today, rejecting calls by the United Nations and the European Union for a truce after Israeli air strikes killed 227 people in Gaza.

    Reply

  79. Paul Norheim says:

    I think the important thing is not whether Jimmy Carter would be
    “polarizing” in America or not, but how he would be perceived by
    the participants in the ME conflict, and how that may effect the
    results.
    In any case, I would be very surprised if Carter was chosen, given
    Obama`s statements on Israel/Palestine issues and his comments
    about Hamas last summer.

    Reply

  80. Yael says:

    Carol, meet Vinny Bommbots. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/pollak/48091?cp=2
    Mr. Bommbots has the Audacity to Hope that Obama declares war on Israel. Maybe you two could get married. And honeymoon on the Mediterranean. In Gaza. I would wish you many happy years, but it’s hard to tell how long the HAMAS will last there.

    Reply

  81. Dan Kervick says:

    dwg,
    Tabbing Carter for some sort of advisory role would only irritate a minority of aggressive hardliners. Most Americans still like and respect Carter. I think that is probably true of most American Jews as well. We can’t allow Jimmy Carter to be turned into a “polarizing figure” by a small camp of loud activists. If they can do it to him, they can do it to anybody. Perhaps the people vilifying Carter *need* to be irritated, and shown that they are standing at one of the poles of American politics, not the center.

    Reply

  82. DonS says:

    NSC chief blames it all on Hamas. That didn’t take long. Now can we hear the Obama version?
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081228/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_mideast

    Reply

  83. dwg says:

    Also, it will very interesting indeed to see how Chief of Staff to be, Rahm Emanuel and SecState to be Clinton handle THEIR roles in this situation as both are widely known to be staunch supporters of Israel.
    Obama made a single pandering speech to AIPAC in the midst of an election season.
    These two “advisors” are longtime committed supporters of Israel. And I’m not sure they can walk a more nuanced path now.
    Though I have otherwise been willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt on ALL his appointments, this very issue has been my only concern.

    Reply

  84. dwg says:

    grr. more coffee required.
    that should have read…
    “No saying Obama canNOT use him in a quieter role”

    Reply

  85. dwg says:

    Mr. Kervick:
    Inauguration: January 20. Obama is not president.
    Why on earth would you expect him to insert himself into a foreign policy issue – crisis even – to muddy already very confusing waters when he does not have any official part of the U.S. government yet?
    See also: http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/12/27/obama.gaza/
    Also, for the commenter that commented on Jimmy Carter above: I agree 100% He has it right and has been wrongly vilified for his astute and accurate observations. But likewise, I think it would be too polarizing to bring him into the PUBLIC limelight on this issue. No saying Obama can use him in a quieter role.

    Reply

  86. dwg says:

    Mr. Kervick:
    Inauguration: January 20. Obama is not president.
    Why on earth would you expect him to insert himself into a foreign policy issue – crisis even – to muddy already very confusing waters when he does not have any official part of the U.S. government yet?
    See also: http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/12/27/obama.gaza/

    Reply

  87. Carol says:

    As I stated in an earlier comment we have given the green light to our “friends” Israel yet again…do what you like but be “careful”.
    It really is sickening how we pander to that country…I do feel however that unfortunately PE Obama will take the same kind of stance here as well.
    This is definitely one thing that I don’t agree with PE Obama on and it’s this continuation of our policy as regards to Israel and our constant defense of it.
    I am hoping that he will be more tolerant and involve talking to Palestine and it’s leaders…as they are the chosen leaders, they should be heard.

    Reply

  88. Yael says:

    Yael,
    Tell Livni that her PR offensive isn’t working.
    Gaza has never been Jew free. Israel has continued to raid that region since they pretended to leave.
    You remind me of the Israeli men who were arrested after they were seen celebrating the burning of the WTC on 9-11.
    They also said that the Palestinians were our enemies.
    You are the problem.

    Reply

  89. Paul Norheim says:

    Yael, I promise to read about Osher Tuito if you provide us with
    the names of some of the up to 700 wounded Palestinians in
    Gaza.
    One dead Israeli equals ten dead Palestinians: is that what you
    meant with our broken moral compass?

    Reply

  90. Yael says:

    Where have you all been for the last year? There is no “blur” to this war whatsoever. In fact it couldn’t be more clear. Israel has absorbed nearly 3,000 terrorist rocket attacks from the Jew-free Gaza strip in 2008 alone. Did you never hear the name Osher Tuito? He’s a child who had his leg blown off by these monsters who purposefully unleash their kassams at the time in the morning when Israeli children are going to school. It has taken a very long time for Israel to respond militarily but thank Gd, they are now fighting for their lives. If you cannot see that, either you have no information or your moral compass is broken.
    Moreover, Americans should be aware that, according to the FBI (as long ago as 2002), there are literally hundreds of HAMAS and Hezbollah cells in the United States. You should be praying very hard for Israel to defeat their enemy in Gaza because HAMAS is your enemy too, as per their own words. It doesn’t matter to HAMAS whether you understand what’s going on or not, or whether you like it or not. They are bent on your destruction. If you cannot cope with that, then go back to worrying about the New York senate seat and leave the war to the grownups.

    Reply

  91. Syed Qamar afzal Rizvi says:

    Managing or administrating the challenge of the middleeast conflict management remains the test meetle of all the previous US’s governments, but much hopes are now being sprouted by the incoming Obama’s administration that instead of showing a policy of a false dawn regarding the Arab-Isreali conflict, the next US administration under Brack Obama, would take a bold US initiative on discovering a humanistic resolution of the said problem that would pave the way for having an historical breakthrough in the Middle East peace process.

    Reply

  92. Paul Norheim says:

    I`m afraid the unfolding events in Gaza go far beyond
    “predictable pin-pricking provocations.”
    Some quotes from Haaretz today, Sunday morning:
    “Hundreds of Israeli infantry and armored corps troops headed
    for the Gaza border early Sunday in preparation for a possible
    ground invasion, military officials said, speaking on condition of
    anonymity under army guidelines.”
    “Ehud Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Sky News on Saturday
    that he would not rule out widening the offensive in the Gaza
    Strip to include a ground invasion.”
    “Asked whether Israel would follow up the air strikes with a
    ground offensive, Barak said, “If boots on the ground will be
    needed, they will be there.” ”
    “”Our intention is to totally change the rules of the game,” he
    said.”
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050618.html

    Reply

  93. WigWag says:

    Steve Clemons speculates that a “part of what is going on today with Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s unleashing of massive Israeli airpower against Hamas offices in Gaza is a test of Obama’s America.”
    But there’s a much more plausible explanation than Steve’s; it’s the one that Paul Norheim alluded to. The most logical explanation is that the Obama Administration knew about the Israeli plans to attack Gaza in advance and that Obama gave his approval.
    There’s nothing unprecedented about Israel notifying the United States before it launches a military attack. In fact it’s par for the course. Look at this from Obama’s perspective.
    He wants to launch a serious peace process shortly after he’s inaugurated. He knows he will have to ask the Israelis for real sacrifices. He also knows that because of the overwhelming support for Israel in the United States (especially in the United States Congress) he will only be able to push the Israelis so hard before he gets blow back.
    Obama also knows that a Livni/Bsrak team will be far more amenable to the compromises he wants then Netanyahu will be but he knows that all the polls now show Netanyahu as the likely next Prime Minister. Obama wants Kadima and Labor to form the next government badly, but if he gets too involved in pushing for the candidates he wants, it’s will almost certainly backfire.
    Giving the Livni/Barak administration the go ahead to launch a massive attack is a win-win for Obama. It makes all the Arab States happy because they hate Hamas and they will revel in any damage done to an ally of Iran (which Hamas is). And if the military adventure goes well, it will dramatically improve the liklihood of a Livni/Barak victory. As a result of the rocket attacks, the Israeli public has been clamoring for some type of military action against Hamas and a well executed campaign could really help the Israeli leaders Obama wants to negotiate with to actually win.
    And if things go really well, Hamas will be in shambles and even though they will still be around, they will be in less of a position to obstruct the deal Obama wants to negotiate.
    If this goes well it’s a straight flush for Obama. The two most flexible parties (Kadima/Labor on the Israeli side and Abbas on the Palestinian side) are strengthened.
    If the military campaign doesn’t go well, Obama is no worse off than before he approved the whole thing.
    Yep, the most likely scenario is that Hillary, Joe, Condi and Barack had a conference call last week with Tzipi and Ehud where the Israeli’s got Obama’s blessing to attack Gaza.
    This scenario is at least as plausible as the one Steve speculated about in his post.

    Reply

  94. S Brennan says:

    Steve,
    Like you a lot, but…you are very wrong on this one.
    This is Israel, whom I care about deeply about, pulling US strings during a time of transition for the US. Hamas had virtually nothing to do with the timing.

    Reply

  95. Paul Norheim says:

    As most readers will remember, Ehud Barak participated in the
    Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David in 2000, together with
    Yassir Arafat and Bill Clinton.
    Who knows, perhaps Barak is dreaming of a new Camp David
    summit, involving a severely damaged Palestinian part, the Syrian
    leader, and the pro Israel Hillary Clinton as key participants – and
    that the bombing of Gaza and destruction of Hamas may be seen
    as “preparations” to a future summit where Israel will have the
    upper hand?

    Reply

  96. Dan Kervick says:

    Well, no word from Obama yet. Is that right?
    Maybe he can just flip them a shaka and make everything cooool.

    Reply

  97. WigWag says:

    I figured out why some people think that Hamas might be an appropriate partner for peace!
    Under the section in their charter dealing with Arab and Islamic Countries, this is what it says:
    “The Zionist invasion is a vicious invasion. It does not refrain from resorting to all methods, using all evil and contemptible ways to achieve its end. It relies greatly in its infiltration and espionage operations on the secret organizations it gave rise to, such as the Freemasons, The Rotary and Lions clubs, and other sabotage groups.”
    You just gotta love terrorists who think that Masons, Rotarians and Lions are “Zionist sabotage groups.”
    These guys should check out the Rotarians down here in Ft. Lauderdale; trust me; they wouldn’t believe their eyes!
    Can you imagine the Israelis and Hamas sitting down to negotiate? After they agreed on Jerusalem, borders, water rights, and refugees they could get down to the really hard stuff like what to do with the Masons and the Lions.
    Yes, this proves it; Hamas is a “potentially responsible steward of a Palestinian state.”

    Reply

  98. Cee says:

    JohnH,
    It read that the scoundrels made plans for the attack while Hamas agreed to a ceasefire.
    I found the following in email this evening.
    Perhaps Steve will talk with one of these people and ignore those at J Street who aren’t telling the truth.
    Did Israel bomb the bakery too?
    (PST)
    Demo: No to a military attack on Gaza! Friday Dec. 26th,at 14.00 in Tel Aviv
    *Press** release*
    The Coalition against the Siege on Gaza
    *Demonstration *
    *No to a military attack on Gaza!*
    War is not an elections spin!
    *Friday Dec. 26th, at 14.00, in the corner of Ben-Zion Ave. and King George
    St., Tel-Aviv*
    *In the demonstration we will call for:*
    Stop immediately siege on Gaza! Set no conditions for ending the
    inhuman suffering of innocents!
    Negotiations with Hamas and renew of the truce!
    Stop the military offensive and propose a political solution for
    ending the occupation!
    Learn from the Second Lebanon War! A military assault will not stop
    the missiles! Only an agreement can bring calm!
    *It* *is Israel which broke the truce* already a month and a half ago, in
    early November, the State of Israel broke the truce in a series of military
    attacks on Gaza, which caused the death of six Palestinians. In this way,
    the government of Israel, with its own hands, brought a rain of Qassam missiles
    upon the heads of the inhabitants of Sderot and the other Gaza Border
    communities. Afterwards, every time that the situation started calming down,
    more Palestinians were killed by the army, their killing provoking new
    salvos of missiles. Now, the government is using the breaking of the truce
    as the pretext to launch a new military offensive. An offensive which would
    cost the lives of civilians, and would not achieve any of its declared aims
    certainly not the aim of bringing calm to the inhabitants of the border
    area.
    *It is Israel which is responsible for the poverty and despair, entailed by
    the siege on Gaza *already for months the million and half inhabitants of
    Gaza live under an Israeli siege, with stoppages of water and electricity
    and a severe lack of vital goods. The Hamas government is already for weeks
    stating that it would be possible to restore the truce, should Israel agree
    to open the passages and allow the entry of goods, products, gasoline and
    people into the Strip. The government chooses consciously to ignore the
    Hamas declarations and cynically chooses, for electoral purposes, the path
    of war.
    *Contact: Adi Dagan (Coalition of Women for Peace) 050-8575730 *
    *Adam Keller (Gush Shalom) 0506-709603*
    **
    Urgent for Publication: Hunger Acorss Gaza As Bread Runs Out

    Reply

  99. Dan Kervick says:

    WigWag,
    I think both sides’ leadership – from both Hamas and the Israeli government – probably viewed the cease-fire as just a breather in which to plan the next stage of the conflict. Israel kept up the virtual siege of Gaza, and launched operations there, which made it highly unlikely Hamas would find it palatable to extend the cease-fire. And Hamas allowed attacks to be stepped up in the last couple of months of the cease fire.
    It’s a freaking war. What can you say? It’s been going on for a century. I just don’t think we should allow the situation to be portrayed as merely an undirected tit-for-tat escalation driven by a few low-level renegades or pranksters. The Israelis and Hamas want to keep fighting. So they’re fighting.

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  100. Paul Norheim says:

    I agree completely with what you said about Carter, Dan – but I
    would be surprised if Obama gave him such a role. James Baker is
    not the worst person to suggest in this context.

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  101. JohnH says:

    As other posts have noted, this plan has been in the making for a long time. It coincides with Israeli elections and with American weakness during the power vacuum of the presidential transition.
    Hamas had virtually nothing to do with the timing. The barrage of rockets from Gaza–Hamas’ repsonse to an Israeli provocation–did nothing but material damage. If Hamas had not responded, Israel would have escalted the provocations. It’s been happening for 60 years (read Avi Shlaim). The plan could have been “justified” by almost any flimsy pretext.
    The interesting question is what if anything Israel hopes to accomplish by further humiliating the humiliated, and empoverishing the starving. It’s hard to believe that this could possibly be an effective balm to soothe Israel’s wounded pride and restore the illusion of “deterrence” after the debacle in Lebanon.
    More than likely, as Moon of Alabama notes, “Every politician in Israel seems to run a ‘I will hit ’em harder’ campaign. This is totally useless violence for the most cynic reason I can think of – to boast the personal egos of Livni, Barak and Netanjahu.” Spilling a little Palestinian blood (or a lot) is sure to raise the level of jingoism in the electorate and assure reelection of the biggest warmongers.
    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2008/12/bombing-gaza.html#comments

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  102. Dan Kervick says:

    Paul,
    Yes, I assume that if the Israelis are engaged militarily against Iran, the US government is bound to be involved in one way or another on the side of Israel, especially diplomatically. And if Iran so much as sets off a firecracker in response to an attack, that would set back any hopes of a US-Iranian deal for some time.
    My view for some time has been that what Israel fears more than anything is a rapprochement of any kind between the US and Iran. Such a rapprochement could re-orient US strategic priorities in the region, and do great damage to Israel’s “special relationship” with the US.
    Obama is supposed to be a very good poker player. But the Israelis play for high stakes. So let’s see if Obama has the scratch for a game at this level.
    A first move would be to convene a high-profile advisory council of US statespersons to advise on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obama should make a show of even-handedness here, inviting people who are not popular with the Israeli fan club: James, Baker, Zbigniew Brzezinski, etc. And if he really wants to show who’s boss, he would make a large point of inviting President Carter, and asking him to take a prominent seat and role in the council on account of his proven record of promoting peace, in the Middle East and elsewhere.
    Carter has been on the receiving end of a vile campaign of character assassination, with repulsive hacks like Alan Dershowitz trying to turn one of the most honest and morally fair presidents we ever had into an “enemy of Israel” and the second coming of Joseph Goebbels, all for having the audacity to suggest that a situation that looks, sounds and smells like apartheid might actually be the beginning of apartheid.
    So far, the response of the US political establishment to this loathsome and unjust blackballing of an ex-president has been gallingly spineless and timid. Obama went along with this crap during the Democratic convention, and its time to end it. Cater has worked tirelessly since he left office on behalf of justice, free and fair elections, and housing the less fortunate. He’s a good guy. If Obama would invest himself personally in the rehabilitation of Carter from this chilly oblivion, it would show me something. C’mon, bring Jimmy in from the cold, Obama!

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  103. WigWag says:

    “…triggered a devastating response from Israel that significantly undermined its own interests as a potentially responsible steward of a Palestinian state.”
    Hamas a “potentially responsible steward” you must be kidding. I am very curious if you can site any evidence whatsoever that Hamas might be “potentially responsible.”
    Is it the provision in their charter that says “Any procedure in contradiction to Islamic Sharia, where Palestine is concerned, is null and void?” Or is it the fact that they hide munitions in the basements of houses occupied by women and children so that when Israel destroys those munitions, those women and children become martyrs for Islam? Or is there something else that makes you think Hamas might be a “responsible steward?”
    The reality is that Hamas is a pariah even in the Arab world. It was widely reported in the Arab press that the Mubarak government actually gave the “go-ahead” to Israel to attack Gaza because they wanted to teach Hamas a lesson. Despite the perfunctory criticism, Jordan was surely happy to see Israel attack Hamas (like the Egyptians, the Jordanians have their own Muslim Brotherhood problem). And does anyone think that Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammed Dahlan or the Fatah fighters kicked out of Gaza by Hamas are losing any sleep tonight over the Israeli action?
    The biggest supporter of Hamas is Iran and they’re not even Arab. And of course the Saudis are so paranoid about the Iranians that it’s fairly obvious that they’re rooting for Iran’s ally Hamas to take a beating.
    I have a feeling that no one thinks Hamas is a “potentially responsible steward” except a few out of work diplomats and some folks working at think tanks.
    Anyone who thinks Barack Obama, Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton will consider Hamas to be a “potentially responsible steward” is sure to be disappointed.
    And Dan Kervick, Ehud Barak began planning this months ago because he knew, like everyone else in the world that the cease-fire with Hamas was scheduled to end in December, 2008. Had Hamas extended the cease-fire as Egypt begged them to, none of this would have taken place. It didn’t take great foresight on Barak’s part to guess that once the cease fire ended Hamas would once again lob missile into Israel. That’s what started this whole imbroglio, not some sinister plan to trap Obama.

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  104. Paul Norheim says:

    Because the israelis can say, OK, here`s the deal: we feel forced
    to attack Iran in any case. Now, is the US with us or not in this?
    And how would Obama respond to that (except cursing the
    Israelis for putting him into that situation)? Would he have any
    choice?

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  105. Paul Norheim says:

    Dan, if your second, “less optimistic” interpretation of the events
    – an escalation leading to an attack on Iran – proves to be
    correct, that would force Obama to cooperate with Israel?
    I mean, given the likely responses from Iran, he would have no
    choice, right?

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  106. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Now we’ll have to see what Obama is made of”
    Thats simple…
    He is a conglomeration of media ink and false promises.
    And he has already shown us whether or not he is a “man” on this issue when he went groveling to AIPAC for the Jewish vote.

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  107. Dan Kervick says:

    Jeez, what a mess my first post was. The sentence fragment:
    “If we begin to get a ratcheted-up series of revelations, accusations related to Iran.”
    should have been:
    “If we begin to get a ratcheted-up series of revelations and accusations related to Iran, we will have reason to think it is the second alternative that is playing out.”
    I will add that I strongly suspect Israel is determined to do whatever is necessary to prevent Obama from making any kind of grand bargain with Iran. This may be part of a multiple-staged effort to thwart plans for discussions.
    Now we’ll have to see what Obama is made of. Is he a man? Or is he willing to be turned into yet another emasculated servant of Israel and its US amen corner.

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  108. DonS says:

    Isr-Pal will test whether Obama is exceptional or just another placeholder as much or more than any other domestic or foreign issue.
    In addressing the issue, Obama will be alerting parties that he has an interest in serious policy work with actual consequences; not just in moving diplomatic checkers around. And he will be rearrangeing and ruffling a lot of political feathers in this country who heretofore looked to AIPAC for direciton.
    Time for Obama to move out of the cryptic speechifying mode and into butt kicking mode. Or not. I’m not optimistic.

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  109. Dan Kervick says:

    The first paragraph in the above is a quote from Steve.

    Reply

  110. Dan Kervick says:

    The violence we are watching is just yet another installment in the blur of tit-for-tat violence from both sides of this chronic foreign affairs ulcer.
    I don’t think it’s just that, Steve. There is a plan here, not just the latest hit in a tit-for-tat series. Ha’aretz is reporting that this operation was planned by Barak over six months ago, and was accompanied by a shrewd disinformation campaign, especially in the final days before execution. The disinformation apparently succeeded in causing Hamas’s leaders to misjudge the timing of the attack, and left them in exposed positions.
    This looks like an operation that is designed to provoke escalation. After the Democratic nomination was decided, and while the US election was working its way out, the Israelis orchestrated an intentionally temporary cease-fire, and prepared all along to present the new US president with a military fact on the ground that will force his hand in their favor.
    The planning apparently took place in June, just a short time after Barack Obama went hat in hand, and with his tail between his legs, to give an Aipac speech that is everything Israel could have asked for. He was accompanied to the private board meeting that followed by his intercessor, Rahm Emanuel, who is now the chief of staff.
    One had to expect that, following the humiliating stalemate of the 2006 Lebanon War, Israel would plan something big to get its mojo back. There seem to be only two strategic alternatives here for interpreting the Israeli planning and action: the optimistic one is that Israel hopes to knock Hamas out of the picture once and for all, and hopes the US and conservative Arab governments will make a renewed push to re-empower Fatah, and to back a Fatah-negotiated settlement on terms more favorable to Israel than Hamas could ever have accepted.
    The less optimistic alternative is that the Israelis expect a predictable cycle of counterattacks, sabotage, terrorism, kidnappings and and hostile rhetoric from its regional enemies, and are laying the groundwork here for staged escalation to a broader military campaign, including an air strike on Iran. Let’s see where Israel’s public diplomacy goes. If we begin to get a ratcheted-up series of revelations, accusations related to Iran.
    Steve, to what “higher level” are you referring? Where are the “weeds”? This latest violence isn’t the accidental byproduct of rogues or loose cannons. Both the Israeli government and Hamas seem to be fully awake, at the highest levels, to what they are doing. And for the US government, outside the Oval Office itself, what higher level is there than the Israeli government?

    Reply

  111. Paul Norheim says:

    While this is bad news for Obama, I`m surprised that Steve
    interprets the events as a hijacking of Obama`s Middle East
    strategy and a “test of Obama`s America.”
    Ehud Barak obviously wants to send a message to the Israeli
    people, just weeks before the election, that he is not weaker
    than Netanyahu. And the timing? Just before the lame duck
    Bush leaves office in Washington.
    Condaleezza Rice`s reaction to the attacks confirms that the
    timing was impeccable.
    I believe this has less to do with Obama, though he will inherit
    this escalation of violence in addition to Iraq, Afghanistan and
    the economy.
    Sure, Obama will be tested. But I think your interpretation was a
    bit premature.

    Reply

  112. ... says:

    it is quite interesting how steve never wants to talk about aipacs influence on the usa’s role in the middle east..that is how it looks to me… how do you expect american politicians to respond given the overriding influence of aipac? if you are hoping for any kind of neutrality when a particular lobby group has much more influence then some other, this is what you get – a very lopsided middle east strategy from us politicians… and it never gets talked about even when the shit hits the fan, as you aren’t allowed to discuss it…it is a conspiracy theory!!!!!!! it is the friggin elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about!!!!!!!!!!
    at least that is how it looks to me…

    Reply

  113. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Hamas, at the same time, overplayed its hand at a fragile time. Hamas will never play the role of supplicant or subordinate to Israel’s interests — but its resumption of violence before the Israeli elections and during a time of transition in US politics triggered a devastating responce from Israel that signficantly undermined its own interests as a potentially responsible steward of a Palestinian state”
    Actually, Steve, there is ample evidence to conclude that it was Israel that violated the cease-fire.
    And make no mistake, even barring Israel’s military actions, their everyday abuse of the Palestinians can easily be viewed as acts of war, and crimes against humanity.

    Reply

  114. adam says:

    Steve,
    This is pathetically spineless nonsense even for a Washingtonian.
    The problem is Israeli occupation. The enabler of this problem is American military, economic and diplomatic support. This is what turns the occupation from a problem of the Palestinians into a problem for Palestinians, Israelis and Americans.
    This needs to stop. Everything else is details. Obama will be in office for four years with an unassailable majority in both houses. Isn’t about time that some people–such as yourself–grew the gonads to actually speak their mind occasionally?

    Reply

  115. ... says:

    usa has no credibility.. what part of that do americans not understand??????????
    stick to supporting the military industrial complex as that is what your politicians do…

    Reply

  116. WigWag says:

    How can you be so sure that Obama’s Middle East strategy has been hijacked when neither you or anyone else has the slightest idea what Obama’s peace strategy is?
    Has Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton whispered something in your ear about the strategy that no one else knows about?

    Reply

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