President Obama enthusiastically supported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to escalate the recent war on Gaza, using the tumult to mend a reportedly soured personal relationship despite Israeli actions of disproportionate aggression.
“The US attitude during the Gaza operation was perhaps the clearest showcase of American support for Israel since Obama took office four years ago,” according Haaretz writer Barak Ravid.
From the beginning, there was clear evidence that Israel had escalated the fight, with the killing of several Gazans in the lead up to the outbreak of violence.
Once Gaza militants retaliated with rockets, Israel decided to assassinate a leading Hamas commander, who was not only responsible for ceasefire negotiations but had also been responsible for policing other militant groups who tried to fire at southern Israel.
Obama and Netanyahu spoke on the phone several times throughout the conflict and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent time with Netanyahu and his cabinet as the fighting and ceasefire negotiations took place.
“There was no pressure on Israel not to launch a ground operation,” a senior American official told Ravid. “In all their discussions, the president and prime minister agreed that it was better to find a diplomatic solution that would preclude a ground operation, because the price [of the latter] was liable to be high. They approached the issue from the same point of view.”
Obama experienced a first term filled with Republican accusations of “throwing Israel under the bus” for meekly requesting a settlement freeze and a tense relationship with Netanyahu over whether to bomb Iran for a nuclear weapons program it doesn’t have. In reality, US support for Israeli oppression of Palestinians had never been stronger.
Many on the left expected Obama to be freed up in his second term and get tough with Israel on such issues. But Israel’s discretionary and disproportionate bombardment revealed that’s unlikely to happen: even during Israel’s most egregious crimes, Obama will lend wholehearted support.