Reading Obama tea leaves on Gaza

Posted in United States | 05-Jan-09 | Author: Judith Apter Klinghoffer

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Washington November 4, 2008.

As the fighting in Gaza enters it's second week, the voices questioning Obama's studied silence grow louder and louder. Americans may not begrudge the man his last few weeks of irresponsibility but decision makers around the world do. They know that when it comes to Gaza there is no daylight between the Bush administration and Israel. Will the same hold true for the Obama administration? In other words, should one side or the other hold out in the hope of improving it's bargaining position?

Hoping to husband his political capital as long as possible, Obama maintains his official silence but something in this exchange convinced me that Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, did not go on Meet the Press to speak on Gaza without checking with Obama's men and the message he sought to convey was that no, Hamas should not expect a better deal from the incoming administration. After all, Reid is not a man to let an opportunity to criticize the Bush administration go by yet he did precisely that on Meet the Press:

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about the ground invasion into Gaza. Do you think on the part of this Israeli--of the Israelis this was offensive or defensive?

SEN. REID: I spoke to Prime Minister Olmert a couple of days ago. He indicated that they would do the ground activities. Let's understand the background. For eight years they've been firing rockets into Israel. They've become more intense the last few months. Israelis have been killed, maimed and injured. Sometimes more than 200 a day coming into Israel. If this were going on in the United States from Vancouver, Canada, into Seattle, would we react? Course we do. We would have to. I think what the Israelis are doing is very important. I think this terrorist organization, Hamas, has got to be put away. They've got to come to their senses. The Fatah group, which is--makes up part of Palestinian group, has a peace arrangement with Israel. Hamas should do the same.

MR. GREGORY: And they're in power in the West Bank.

SEN. REID: That's right. And, and, and Israel, for--since 1967, controlled Gaza. They gave it to the Palestinians as a gesture of peace. And all they got are a bunch of rockets in return.

MR. GREGORY: So you think that Israel ought to move forward and try to remove Hamas from power?

SEN. REID: They have to. I, I'm not concerned about removing Hamas from power, I'm concerned about stopping the rocket fire and the mortar fire into Israel. That is the key, and that's what Israel's up to according to the prime minister.

MR. GREGORY: Should there be an immediate cease-fire?

SEN. REID: If the Hamas organization will agree and there is some degree of certainty that they will follow through. They, in the past, have simply not lived up to what they said they would do. If there's a way of enforcing this cease-fire, then yes. Otherwise, Israel has to continue till they stop the rockets and mortars coming into Israel, maiming, injuring...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

SEN. REID: ...and killing Israelis.

MR. GREGORY: So you, you're in sync with the Bush administration on this point?

SEN. REID: Yes, I am.

Those last three words spoke volumes. Will Hamas and, more importantly it's Iranian paymasters, listen or will they trust their leftist allies to force Obama's hand? If they wish to win quick brownie points with the incoming administration, they should oblige it by cutting a deal with the current administration. The same can be said about all those seeking a role in the negotiating process be they UN officials, EU representatives or Arab governments.

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