Why Obama's silence on Gaza is justified
Much has been said about Obama’s “deafening silence” in relation to Israel’s war on Gaza and much has been made of it, mostly in negative terms. Many idealists like me who are sick and tired of the bloodshed in the Middle East have been holding out for a real change in the relationship between Israel and it’s superpower sponsor the United States. However we must look at Obama’s silence, and the general silence of his Administration, as the strategic move that it is, and the correct one at that.
Obama’s administration has typically followed the “one president at a time” policy when fielding questions about Gaza. Critics were quick to point out that Obama had broken this policy on occasion, like when condemning the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. However these two things are not comparable. Regardless of what your opinions on the current conflict in Gaza are, it is most certainly a sensative diplomatic issue.
Obama is simply being smart. We know the man is a pragmatist and is not one for empty rhetoric, especially when that rhetoric can actually be damaging to the prospects of positive progress.
Let’s look at the options. The international community is not yet united enough against Israel to warrant leaving it out in the cold completely like Apartheid South Africa and such a move is certainly not on the cards for the USA where the political climate means an immense amount of power in the hands of Jewish and Pro-Israeli lobbies. This would make such an extreme move political suicide, which is why Obama went to great lengths to prove his Pro-Israeli credentials in the lead-up to the election.
No, in order for things to change in the Middle East, Obama will need to get Israel on side and he knows that. President Bush had already established a relationship with Israel (and as evidenced by recent events, a pretty close personal friendship with Ehud Olmert). Obama and Hillary Clinton have not had enough time to establish themselves similarly. Obama also knows that Israel is wary of him and his administration’s policy towards them, a probable part of the reason why they chose this December to attack Gaza (and not wait longer).
I believe that for real change to happen in the Middle East, the Israel Government needs a good friend to step in and tell it that what it’s doing is not only morally wrong but also unlikely to provide a positive outcome for Israeli security either. I think Obama knows this also and will focus on building a good enough relationship with Israel to be able to step in and be that friend, rather than engaging in unnecessary sabre-rattling to please a rabid media looking for controversy. Any sort of strong statement or condemnation by him now would achieve absolutely nothing in real terms, so tell me, why should Obama take the bait?