Hold your fire
United States should hold back on intervening in Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012
Updated: Sunday, November 18, 2012 19:11
At the time of print on Sunday, there were 27 deaths in Gaza – including 11 from a civilian attack – bringing the total number of Palestinians killed to 72 since the Israel air strikes began five days ago.
Israel and Gaza have been trading fire for months and escalated even further after Hamas’ military chief Ahmad Jabari was assassinated by an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday.
In a statement from the White House, President Obama condemned Hamas and other Palestinian groups for “the cowardly acts” of launching rockets into Israel. Once again, he expressed the United States’ support “for Israel’s right to self-defense” and urged Israeli Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu to “make every effort to avoid civilian causalities.”
The United States should be feeling an extreme case of déjà vu. In 2008 when Obama was still the president-elect, Israel began bombing Gaza. Then he was able to remain silent on the issue behind the excuse of not being the sitting president, allowing then-President Bush to handle the situation. Four years later, the president has to either take action or stand back.
And under the pressure that is building and the pressure that is still yet to come from the rest of the world craving a diplomatic solution, the best decision will be – at least for now – to stand back.
Egypt Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Ahr spoke with Hillary Clinton over the weekend to ask the U.S. for immediate intervention and to push Israel to stop its aggression. The conflict is a major test for Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new president, and how he will balance out his country’s own relations with Israel. Egyptian and Israeli officials met yesterday to hold talks on a ceasefire after Israel widened its range of targets.
We need to let them proceed. America needs to stay friendly with both Egypt and Israel, but at least for now, we should back off and keep a close eye on the area, as we already tend to do, especially to allow the new democracies in the Middle East to take care of their own classes.
One of our government’s unifiers is the unequivocal support for Israel among members of Congress – Republican, Democrat and Independent alike. The president doesn’t have the option to move forward with deals for peace or to intervene unilaterally without support from the House and Senate.
If our aim is to protect Israel in the event the Israeli-Palestinian conflict develops into a war between Israel and Iran, we need not worry. Israel has the power to win such a war decisively without our help. There is only so much our country can do right now. The government is in trillions of dollars of debt, and the people cringe just at the word “war” now.
But nothing can truly move forward until both sides are even remotely willing to work together. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor have been consistent in their refusal to negotiate. Israel hasn’t made the situation any easier with blockades and border control in an effort to keep out Hamas.
A major topic of debate has been what President Obama will do with his second term in regards to foreign policy, especially in terms of aggressiveness and if he should renew peace process efforts between Israel and Palestine. The time isn’t right for it, however – not until tensions and conditions in the area have improved and not until a peace prospect with the potential to fail doesn’t also have the potential to tear the area apart.