Barack Obama, who takes over as U.S. president from George W. Bush on January 20, broke his silence about the violence in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, calling the loss of civilian lives in Gaza and in Israel a “source of deep concern for me.” ~Haaretz
Michael Crowley reports that Shibley Telhami told him that he believed this signalled that something significant was going to change under the new administration:
“Given how he’s tackled human rights, humanitarian issues and the kind of position he wants to take globally in terms of a signal of where we stand, it’s clear he’s going to be much more sensitive to civilian casualties,” Telhami told me. “You can say we’re going to go in and not repeat certain policies, do things like close Guantanamo, and not be sensistive to the kind of civilian casualties that have people demonstrate in the street around the world. That doesn’t tell you what policies he’s going to pursue, but in terms of how he projects himself, that tells you something.”
Of course, this is the same Obama who had essentially nothing to say about the even larger civilian death toll and massive displacement of refugees from the war two years ago, which he supported without reservation. It seems clear enough to me that voicing expressions of deep concern is the sort of minimal lip service that Obama feels compelled to give, perhaps because he is at least somewhat aware of the tremendous damage these casualties are causing Israel and, indirectly, the United States, but there is little or nothing in his record or public statements that should cause us to expect any departure from the sort of unflinching support the current administration has shown for any and every Israeli military operation for the last eight years. Politically, it is pretty close to unimaginable that Obama would start his term of office by making particularly bold or dramatic moves in this area.