said Hamas must end rocket fire at Israel, and Israel must "complete the withdrawal of its forces from Gaza." Although those steps were taken this week, low-level violence has marred the fragile cease-fire.This continues the line established by prior administrations that focused on the US's "special" relationship to Israel and viewed Israeli actions as defensive against the Palestinian people rather than as the aggressive and illegal acts of an occupying power.
Obama said he would aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians while also always defending Israel's "right to defend itself."
In the meantime, Israel understands that in the eyes of many nations the Israeli attack on Gaza was a war crime. The VOANews.com reports
Israel's prime minister has assembled a team to defend the country against charges of war crimes in its recent offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.While the VOANews.com report spins the offensive as if it were against "Hamas militants", the reality is that the Israelis devestated the entire region and murdered many women and children. The offensive was clearly designed to terrorize the entire population, following a blockade that had the same goal.
President Obama's naming of a new special envoy to the Middle East, Sen. George Mitchell, should be welcomed if it signals a commitment to work for a just peace in the region. However the statement on Israel and Hamas signal a policy of "more of the same" rather than "change we need".
The President's statements on continuing the Bush policy of a "War on Terror" are also unwelcome to those who were looking for a more sophisticated and sensitive, even if not anti-imperialist, foreign policy in the regions including Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is the region that President is declaring
"the central front" in the battle against terrorism and extremism. "There, as in the Middle East, we must understand that we cannot deal with our problems in isolation," he said.A foreign policy that approachs the US issues in that region in context of the needs of the people of the region as well as those of the US people, and which puts the peaceful and mutually beneficial resolution to issues at the forefront of a policy, would be welcome. However, putting the relationships to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the context of the "battle against terrorism and extremism" draws lines that are sure to make diplomacy difficult, signaling an aggressive and combative approach to diplomacy there.
Finally, on Iraq, the NY Times report said that
Obama's top military officials said yesterday they will make sure he knows the potential downside of any timetable for pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq, including the 16-month deadline he set during his presidential campaign.Here again we have to applaud the President in his desire to bring the troops home and hope that he does not take the occassion of various "downsides" to a timetable to move away from that goal.
All in all, for those who are proponents of peace and social justice, these first steps toward foreign policy send a message of continuity with some of the key components of the Bush administration's policies, and continue along lines that are not designed to achieve a just peace in the Palestinian struggle. Hopefully as the President continues involvement in these processes he will extend his tone of humanity and inclusiveness to the oppressed and the hungry of Palestine as much as to those of us here in the United States who look to him for humane and caring leadership.