Political tidbits: What Gaza means for Obama

  • The New York Times’ Steven Lee Meyers and Helene Cooper write that Barack Obama  "all  but endorsed the punishing Israeli attacks now unfolding" when he visited Israel this past summer:

“If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that,” he told reporters in Sderot, a small city on the edge of Gaza that has been hit repeatedly by rocket fire. “And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

  • The same article notes the crisis has "dashed already limited hopes for quick progress on the peace process" and says that the president-elect has few good choices:

One option would be for an Obama administration to respond much more harshly to Israel’s policies, from settlements to strikes like those this weekend, as many in the Arab world and beyond have long urged. On Sunday, though, [senior adviser David] Axelrod said the president-elect stood by the remarks he made in the summer and, when asked, noted the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel.

Otherwise, Mr. Obama could try to pressure surrogates to lean on Hamas, including Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza. He can try to build international pressure on Hamas to stop the rocket attacks into Israel. He can try to nurture a peace between Israel and Mr. Abbas on the West Bank, hoping that somehow it spreads to Hamas. All have been tried, and all have failed to avoid new fighting.

  • Ben Smith and Harry Siegel at Politico say "Israel’s air strikes in Gaza end any faint hopes that President-elect Barack Obama will take office with a clear path toward Middle East peace laid out before him":

It may also strengthen the hand of more hawkish advisers who have argued that his first step toward Middle East peace should be attempting to weaken and isolate Iran, not negotiating with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, analysts said. With Israeli elections scheduled for February 10, the ongoing Gaza strike and its eventual aftermath may determine who Obama will choose as his Israeli interlocutor.

  • Shimon Peres urged Obama to not rush in to direct talks with Iran, reports the Jerusalem Post:

Peres said he hoped the Obama administration would hold off on talks with senior Teheran officials at least until after "the [Iranian] elections, because it may affect the results of the elections."

  • Orthodox Union director of public policy Nathan Diament, writing in The New Republic, give some advice to the president-elect on faith issues. He says abortion, workplace discrimination, "supplemental assistance" for religious schools and the faith-based initiative are some of the issues on which Obama could reach out to religious voters:

In office, Obama has a chance to show his sensitivity to religious voters’ concerns, and, in some cases, advance policies that are important to them, without sacrificing Democratic principles.

  • The Nation’s John Nichols criticizes Obama’s reaction to the Gaza conflict:

Obama and his aides should be openly counseling the Bush administration to use every diplomatic avenue to promote a ceasefire and, above all, to urge against an Israeli invasion and occupation of Gaza. Unfortunately, the president-elect is doing nothing of the sort.

  • Could the U.S. Senate seat Al Franken before he’s officially declared a winner in Minnesota? Politico has some details:

The state’s sitting senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, is now calling for the Senate to provisionally seat the Canvassing Board’s declared winner, until the results are officially certified.  Democrat Al Franken currently leads Coleman by 46 votes — with as many as 1,400 absentee ballots left to count.

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