Obama’s silence on Israeli airstrikes disappoints many
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: President–elect Barack Obama blew the first opportunity that had come his way to show that unlike his predecessors, he was going to adopt a more even-handed approach to the Palestine question by choosing to keep quiet after savage Israeli airstrikes across Gaza.
Obama who was expected by people in Arab and Muslim countries to turn his back on earlier American administrations that have supported Israel, right or wrong, could only have caused widespread disappointment among those who were hopeful that he would be different. If his first reaction to the Israeli outrage is any indication, it is clear that he is going to be as enthusiastic in his support of Israel as his predecessors.
While, as could have been predicted, the Bush White House held Hamas responsible for having forced Israel’s hand, Obama, who spoke for eight minutes on Saturday to Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, could not bring himself to say even one word about the savage Israeli attacks which continued on the second day, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians. All an Obama spokesman was prepared to say was, “He (Obama) will continue to closely monitor these and other global events.” Bracketing the Israeli assaults with “other global events” is intended to suggest that the Israeli airstrikes were yet another of “global events’ that called for no more notice than the president-elect had already taken of them.
The White House said it holds Hamas responsible for the renewal of deadly violence in Gaza after the Islamist group broke its ceasefire with Israel. Rice said on Saturday, “The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza.” Meanwhile, Howard L Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement, “Israel has a right, indeed a duty, to defend itself in response to the hundreds of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza over the past week. No government in the world would sit by and allow its citizens to be subjected to this kind of indiscriminate bombardment. The loss of innocent life is a terrible tragedy, and the blame for that tragedy lies with Hamas.”