Saturday, December 27, 2008

Needing a True Friend in the White House

So I think most of us are still trying to digest Israel's recent attack into Gaza -- one of the heaviest operations it's launched in quite awhile. Palestinian casualties are estimated around 200. Most bloggers I've read seem to be assuming that figure is primarily civilian, but I've yet to see a breakdown and the Washington Post claims that most of the dead are members of Hamas' security apparatus -- the legitimate military target of the assault. So that would be a good sign.

Anyway. Cara notes in her post that whereas the UN, Russia, and many Western European nations are calling on Israel to cease its attack, the US is limiting itself to pleas for Israel to limit civilian casualties.

This is one of those situations where I think it'll be really good for Israel to have a true friend in the White House. I trust Obama on Israel, because I think he really "gets it" in a way that few non-Jews do. On the other hand, I think it's also clear that Obama has a greater understanding of the plight of the Palestinians and more of an ear to their needs than any President we've had in a long while.

Part of being a good ally means knowing when to take your friend aside and tell them to chill. Israel has very good reasons to be wary of "advice" coming out of Europe, Russia, or the UN. The US, on the other hand, has a quite solid relationship with the Jewish state and can provide the external impetus needed to push beyond the "default to hawkishness".

Is this attack a time when a good friend would tell Israel to cool it? I dunno. If the Post is to be believed Israel has actually done a good job tailoring its attacks to minimize civilian casualties, which is good. But as my last post indicated, it's far from clear Israel is actually accomplishing anything here. I really don't have a firm enough grasp on the particulars of the situation -- who Israel is managing to kill, what the expected upshot of the operation is, how much Hamas' operational capacity will be depleted -- to evaluate that. Presumably American intelligence sources do have that information and can judge accordingly. The point is that Obama is the type of person who knows that, sometimes, you got to lean a bit even on your friends.

1 comment:

Matt said...

According to Tom Gross (often described as a right-wing hawk, but then you and I are often described as such - I can't say much about his orientation), even Hamas says the number of civilians killed is minimal. "Hamas TV acknowledged yesterday morning in its 10 am broadcast that 180 of the 220 killed by that time were members of Hamas armed forces." Somewhere else, can't find at the moment, I saw that the UN claimed 50 dead were civilans.