Liza Porteus Viana at AOL’s Political Machine produces a round-up of blogospheric and media reactions to the deafening silence coming from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on Israel’s operations in Gaza. Obama has kept a low profile in Hawaii during the holidays, and even when conducting business, has limited himself to discussing Cabinet appointments and refrained from most policy discussions, especially on foreign affairs. The fact that he’s not yet President has sunk in with Obama, but not the Obamaniacs around the world:
-“The truce Hamas had meticulously upheld was shattered when Israel attacked Gaza, killing six Palestinians, as The Guardian reported on 5 November. A blatant disregard for the facts, it seems, will not leave the White House with George W. Bush on 20 January. Axelrod also recalled Obama’s visit to Israel last July when he ignored Palestinians and visited the Israeli town of Sderot. There, Obama declared: ‘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. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.’ This should not surprise anyone. Despite pervasive wishful thinking that Obama would abandon America’s pro-Israel bias, his approach has been almost indistinguishable from the Bush administration’s.” – Electronic Intifada
-“President-elect Barack Obama is getting whacked by the left for declining to comment on Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, but his prudent silence is just as discomfiting to the Israeli government and its allies here in the United States. They wanted a ringing endorsement of their bombardment.” – The First Post, U.K.
-“President-elect Barack Obama and Secretary of State-to-be Hillary Clinton were shamefully silent in the first hours after the attack. Bush’s reaction, and the non-reaction by Obama and Clinton, underscores the point that Hanan Ashrawi made on Saturday. ‘Israel has gotten used to not being held accountable and to being a country that is above the law,’ said the Palestinian legislator and human rights activist. She called the bombings a ‘massacre.'” — The Progressive
-“But some fear that the US president-elect’s reluctance to speak out on the Gaza raids could be sending its own message. ‘Silence sounds like complicity,’ Mark Perry, the Washington Director of the Conflicts Forum group, told Al Jazeera. ‘Obama has said that Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket attacks but my question to him is ‘does he believe that Palestinians also have the right of self-defence?'” AlJazeera.net
-“Former London mayor Ken Livingstone and rights activist Bianca Jagger joined campaigners who have staged a week of rallies, culminating in a demonstration Saturday which will include a symbolic shoe protest outside Downing Street. ‘I would like to make an appeal to president elect Obama to speak up,’ said Jagger. ‘People throughout the world were hopeful when he was elected and we must appeal to him to ask for the immediate cessation of the bombardment of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.'” – AFP
-“This was the time for President Elect Barack Obama to make a strong statement. He has not said anything; he has failed his first test as incoming president abysmally. …Obama has made several statements on the economy, and has even already devised a $750 billion stimulus of his own, in addition to all the programs that have been announced by the Bush Administration. Now when it comes to a vicious and disproportionate attack by Israel that has already claimed the lives of many children and women, the President Elect is not permitted to say a word because of some sort of protocol? What kind of nonsense is this?” – Black Star News
-“Obama and his aides should be openly counseling the Bush administration to use every diplomatic avenue to promote a ceasefire and, above all, to urge against an Israeli invasion and occupation of Gaza. Unfortunately, the president-elect is doing nothing of the sort. Some may imagine that this disengaged approach confirms Obama as a true ‘friend of Israel.'” – The Nation
-“Obama has massive political capital, and could have injected himself into the crisis before it happened. He did so during the beginning of the economic meltdown, and could have lent his credibility to a situation that has spiralled dangerously out of control. Obama has stated that ‘There is only one President at a time’, abdicating responsibility and essentially passing the buck.” – Huffington Post
Some of these are just hilarious, especially the first. Hamas meticulously kept the truce until Israel attacked? They must have missed the public pronouncements by Hamas that they had unilaterally decided to end the truce, followed by the 200+ missile and rocket attacks on Israeli civilians from Gaza. Others assume that the only policy that should be pursued is that which forces Israel to stop defending itself after Hamas attacks, a policy that even Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt didn’t have the chutzpah to demand. Arab Times, the mouthpiece of the Saudi royal family, roundly condemned Hamas as the author of its own misery in a rambling and disjointed editorial.
Even putting aside the policy insanity these outlets demand, they miss one important point, which is that we have only one President at a time, and he sets foreign policy. Obama will become President soon enough, but until then, George Bush sets the policy and handles American diplomatic efforts. Had Obama interjected himself into the situation by demanding a different course of action, it would cripple whatever efforts the US would make over the next few weeks in that region, and pretty much anywhere else.
Give Obama some credit for understanding this and remaining appropriately in the background. He’s not abdicating any responsibility because he has no position to abdicate at the moment. Anyone who doesn’t understand that shows a lack of comprehension about American government and its traditions.