Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Israeli Attack Seen as Complicating Obama’s Plans

The president-elect’s stated goal of improving the Israeli-Palestinian situation has been complicated before he even starts his job.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

(Inter Press Service)

Israel’s massive three-day aerial assault on Gaza is likely to complicate President-elect Barack Obama’s hopes of aggressively pursuing Israeli- Palestinian peace negotiations, and risk inflicting greater damage to Washington’s standing in the Arab world, according to most analysts here.

Indeed, if the current campaign goes on much longer and the Israelis launch a major ground invasion of Gaza as they now appear to be preparing to do, Obama could face a major international crisis—comparable to Israel’s failed 2006 war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah—just as he takes office.

"With this assault, the fallout has already started to spread considerably beyond the constituency of people who are Palestinians," noted Helena Cobban, a veteran Middle East analyst who cited popular protests in Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere in the Arab world since the Israeli campaign began last Saturday.

"It has already started, and we can confidently expect that the longer Israel’s assault is maintained, the higher the regional stakes will rise."

The Israeli attacks, which came a week after the expiration of an increasingly shaky six-month cease-fire, have so far reportedly killed more than 550 Palestinians, while five Israelis have died.

While Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak initially insisted that Israel’s war aims were designed to reinstate and strengthen the cease-fire, the former prime minister who hopes to reclaim that post as head of the Labor Party in February 10 elections, appeared to broaden them in a speech to the parliament last Monday, in which he pledged "war to the bitter end" against Hamas—the Islamist party that controls Gaza. Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon said Israel aimed to "topple Hamas."

As with the 2006 war, the administration of President George W. Bush has offered strong backing for the Israeli attack, demanding that Hamas stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to a "sustainable and durable ceasefire."

"The United States understands that Israel needs to take actions to defend itself," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe at Bush’s ranch in Texas, where the outgoing president is spending the Christmas holiday. Johndroe called the leadership of Hamas "nothing but thugs" during a briefing last Sunday.

Meanwhile, Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, has declined to comment on the violence and the threat of larger crisis. "The fact is that there is only one president at a time, and that president now is George Bush," Obama’s top political adviser, David Axelrod, said on a nationally televised public affairs program Sunday.

Axelrod went on to quote Obama as defending Israel’s retaliation against Gaza-based militants who launched rockets into the southern Israeli town of Sderot when he visited there in July.

"If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that.… And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing," Obama had said at the time. In his speech to the Knesset last Monday, Ehud Barak significantly repeated the quotation in defending Israel’s action.

During the presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly insisted that he—in contrast to his predecessor—would make Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations a top priority "from day one" in his administration. He reiterated his intention explicitly when he introduced the senior members of his foreign policy team in Chicago.

A number of Obama’s informal advisers—including former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski—have publicly urged the president-elect to follow through on that commitment, arguing that nothing could do more to help Washington recover its badly damaged credibility in the Arab and Islamic worlds than to lead a major effort at achieving a two-state solution.

But such an effort is now seen as increasingly problematic, particularly if the Gaza conflict escalates further, according to most experts here.

"It clearly, clearly complicates any effort to engage in a vigorous diplomatic effort, because the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip has necessarily weakened [Palestine Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas and his efforts to negotiate with the Israelis," said Steven Cook, a Middle East analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, who also noted the conflict also created "an untenable situation for the Syrians to continue" their Turkish-mediated peace talks with Israel.

The violence "is going to make an already dramatically complicated situation worse," Aaron Miller, a former senior U.S. State Department Middle East negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, told the Wall Street Journal. "Obama’s going to inherit a crisis without the capacity to do much about it," he told Politico.com.

Not everyone is so pessimistic, however. Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator currently based at the New America Foundation and the Century Fund, noted that the current crisis serves as a reminder that the Israeli- Palestinian conflict cannot be ignored.

"[These] events should be ‘Exhibit A’ in why the next U.S. government cannot leave the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to fester or try to ‘manage’ it—as long as it remains unresolved, it has a nasty habit of forcing itself onto the agenda," he wrote in his blog, Prospectsforpeace.com.

"The new administration needs to embark upon a course of forceful regional diplomacy that breaks fundamentally from past efforts," he added, noting that a consensus within the foreign policy establishment has emerged in favor of a more assertive peace-making role, including setting forth the basic elements of final settlement, as laid out by Brzezinski and Scowcroft, among other major players.

Cook also agreed that Obama’s decisive electoral victory and his vision of more aggressive Middle Eastern diplomacy will give him more leverage over the Israelis who "aren’t looking for a fight with" with the new president.

Still, the ongoing violence makes it "hard to see any scenario which produces remotely positive results for anyone involved," according to Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University who specializes in Arab media and public opinion.

"A bloody retaliation against Israelis seems highly likely, and if Abbas is seen as supporting the Israeli offensive against his political rivals, then Hamas may well emerge from this even stronger within Palestinian politics," he wrote in his widely read Abuaardvark.com blog. "The offensive is highly unlikely to get rid of Hamas, but it will likely leave an even more poisoned, polarized and toxic regional environment for a new President who had pledged to re-engage with the peace process."

Lynch and Cook, among others, also believe that the continued fighting in Gaza will reopen and widen the breach—already made clear during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war between Arab regime allied to the U.S. and their own publics—to the benefit of Iran and its regional allies, not to mention radical Sunni forces, including Al Qaeda.

The fact that Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah called last Monday for Arabs and Muslims to launch "uprisings" in support of Gaza "should be cause for concern," according to Cook, who noted that the catalyst for the 2006 war was an attack on an Israeli patrol designed to divert the Israelis from ongoing military operations in Gaza.

"Obama has scrupulously [and wisely] adhered to the ‘one President at a time’ formula in foreign policy up to this point," Lynch wrote, "but you have to wonder how long he can sit by and watch the prospects for meaningful change in the region battered while the administration sits by and cheers."

Citations

By Jim Lobe, "Israeli Attack Seen as Complicating Obama’s Plans" Right Web with permission from Inter Press Service (Somerville, MA: PRA, 2008). Web location:
https://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4974.html Production Information:
Author(s): Right Web
Editor(s): Right Web
Production: Political Research Associates   IRC logo 1310 Broadway, #201, Somerville, MA   02144 | pra@publiceye.org

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


A military historian, Kimberly Kagan heads the Institute for the Study of War, where she has promoted the continuation of U.S. war in Afghanistan.


A “non-partisan” policy institute that purports to defend democracies from “militant Islamism,” the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is an influential base of hawkish advocacy on Middle East policy.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


RightWeb
share