Israel, Gaza and the US: what will Obama do?

Subtle muscular adjustments can show, from left, wistfulness, determination, and unbridled hopefulness.

Subtle muscular adjustments can show, from left, wistfulness, determination, and unbridled hopefulness.

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.

There were also hints in their demeanour on television that Obama’s senior aides like David Axelrod were not overly delighted with Israel’s state propagandists for headlining Obama’s remarks on a visit to Israel in the summer that “If somebody shot rockets at my house where my two daughters were sleeping at night, I’d do everything in my power to stop them.”

On the campaign trail and, indeed, since he reached the Senate in 2005, no politician was more sedulous that Obama in ensuring that the Israel lobby here had no cause for disquiet. On arrival in Washington, he instantly selected Joe Lieberman, known informally as the Senator from Israel, as his mentor. At the annual conference this last summer of the very powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama drew criticism from across a broad political spectrum for his grovelling.

"Israel should get whatever it wants and an undivided Jerusalem should be its capital," Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee

“Israel should get whatever it wants and an undivided Jerusalem should be its capital,” Obama assured the American Jewish delegates, many of them influential Democrats from across the US. The next day, one of his foreign policy advisors hastily issued a clarification to the effect that Obama believes “Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties” as part of “an agreement that they both can live with”. The aide refused to rule out such possibilities as Jerusalem also serving as the capital of a Palestinian state or Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods.

So, is there any evidence that when he sits down in the Oval Office in three weeks’ time, Obama will try to set a new course?

On the left, professor Noam Chomsky remarked recently: “With Obama, Israel and less than two per cent of the American population is now in full control of the American government.”

The minute Obama makes any move deemed ‘anti-Israel’ he will see his economic recovery plan held hostage

It’s certainly true that the minute the new Obama administration makes any move, however tentative, deemed ‘anti-Israel’ by the massed legions of the Israel lobby – stretching from Vice President Joe Biden’s office, through Obama’s own Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to about 98 per cent of the US Congress, the major newspapers and TV networks, the think tanks in Washington, the big Democratic Party funders – political mayhem will break loose. The White House will see its prime political enterprise, the economic recovery programme, immediately held hostage.

It’s also true that both Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have in the past evinced sympathy for Palestinian aspirations: the former photographed with his wife Michelle in what was obviously an amiable meeting with the late Edward Said, America’s best-known Palestinian, and Hillary Clinton publicly embracing Yasser Arafat. It seems safe to say that, unlike Bush Jnr, neither Obama nor Mrs Clinton have any rooted ideological or religious commitment to the Zionist cause. Political 

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