Right Web

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

Israeli Attack Seen as Complicating Obama’s Plans

(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 a

t 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

The millionaire pastor of the Cornerstone Church in Texas, John Hagee argues that U.S. support for Israel will play a “a pivotal role in the second coming” of Jesus. He has also risen to new prominence during the Trump administration.


Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian who served as a chief aide and speechwriter in the George W. Bush White House, is a conservative columnist for the Washington Post and one of Donald Trump’s harshest critics on the right, calling him an “unhinged president.”


Robert Kagan, a cofounder of the Project for the New American Century, is a neoconservative policy pundit and historian based at the Brookings Institution.


Mira Ricardel, former weapons marketer for Boeing, is the deputy national security adviser under John Bolton. She is a well-known foreign policy hawk who has served in key positions in the administration of George W. Bush and, earlier, in the office of former Senator Robert Dole (R-KS).


Fred Fleitz left his role as chief of staff at the National Security Council under John Bolton to succeed notorious Islamophobe Frank Gaffney as president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy.


Brian Hook is the director of policy planning and senior policy advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is the head of the Iran Action Group.


Haim Saban is a media mogul and major donor to the Democratic Party known for his hardline stance on Israel and opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

As the civilian death toll from Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen grows and the backlash against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in Khashoggi’s murder escalates, former Sen. Norm Coleman’s control of Republican Party campaign purse strings positions him as a key influencer of Republican congressional action, or inaction, in curtailing the increasingly aggressive and reckless actions of Saudi Arabia.


Increasingly, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are positioned as rivals, each with pretensions to Middle Eastern influence or even hegemony. It’s not clear whether they can continue to coexist without one or the other—or both—backing down. This has made it more difficult for the United States to maintain its ties with both countries.


What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing — and arguably quite a lot.


The Donald Trump administration’s handling of nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia promises to lay bare some realities about security issues and nuclear programs in that part of the world that the administration has refused to acknowledge.


Eminent U.S. foreign policy expert Stephen Walt’s new book critique’s the “liberal hegemony” grand strategy that has dominated U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.


(Lobelog)  Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told LobeLog he will remain on the board of the Gatestone Institute, a right-wing think tank that receives money from Trump megadonors Robert and Rebekah Mercer and disseminates anti-Muslim and anti-refugee conspiracy theories. Last week, LobeLog reported that Dershowitz received $120,000 from the Gatestone Institute in 2017 and…


Jobs should not be an excuse to arm a murderous regime that not only appears to be behind the assassination of a U.S. resident and respected commentator but is also responsible for thousands of civilian casualties in Yemen—the majority killed with U.S-supplied bombs, combat aircraft, and tactical assistance.


RightWeb
share