Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Obama speaks! (finally)

Barack Obama finally commented on the situation in Gaza this afternoon during a Q&A session with reporters following a briefing on his proposed economic plan. Frankly, the comment itself was nothing exciting or insightful - a concern for the human cost on both sides, a hope that a cease fire would be reached soon - but it was good to finally hear something from the president-elect.

Obama did explain why he hasn't spoken on the conflict sooner, and it does make some sense. He basically cited the old American political axiom that "politics ends at the water's edge." What that means in plain English, is that while Democrats and Republicans may squabble incessantly on domestic issues, when it comes to foreign policy we are all on the same page, so any foreign power should forget about trying to exploit feuds between US politicians to weaken our security. That's why when you see US politicians abroad, they will almost never say anything negative about the foreign policy of the current president, even if they disagree with it and even if they were vocal critics of it while back in the United States.

Obama feels it's only right to continue this policy when it comes to dealing with foreign affairs. He explained that's why he is publicly discussing his plans to stimulate the economy, but why he's not offering suggestions about what he would do when it comes to Israel/Palestine. He did wrap up by saying he had plans and ideas and that he would be taking action as soon as he was sworn in on the 20th, and that he would be strongly engaged with the Middle East.

My opinion? It all seems reasonable. I think he could have made the "concern for..." statement last week though, saying you hope that Israeli and Palestinian children can sleep at night without worrying about being killed isn't a terribly controversial position to take. I do think it puts more pressure on him now to offer up a vision of the peace process that is markedly different from that of the Bush Administration. It will be interesting to see what he does.
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