Very bad, if inevitable, news from Gaza today: the Israelis accidently hit a UN school, killing at least 30 children. This will, no doubt, increase international outrage…and, I hope, pressure for a cease-fire. As Swampland readers know, I supported the Israeli effort to diminish Hamas’s military capabilities–but the most valuable targets were probably hit in the first few days of the aerial campaign and, as time goes on, the possibility of a Hamas “moral” victory becomes more likely. The only way out now is a temporary cease-fire. Even a unilateral one would have the effect of demonstrating Hamas’s instransigence–and those who condemn Israel for its disproportionality in Gaza tend to be disproportionate themselves, ignoring the thousands of rockets Hamas has lobbed into Israel over the past 3 years.
Two other points:
1. Obama’s silence on Gaza seems a clear indication that his administration will approach this problem differently from the Bushies. “We have only one President at a time” only has relevance when the President-elect has a differing view. When the President-elect agrees with the incumbent, as in the proper response to the Mumbai terrorism, he isn’t shy about saying so. How will Obama differ? My guess is that he would mount an aggressive diplomatic effort to achieve a cease-fire.
2. The sun rises in the east and the neocons never miss an opportunity to compare muslims to Nazis. The comparison is particularly inapt in this case because, whatever you think of their methods–I think they’re criminal and immoral–the Palestinians have a legitimate historical beef. The land was theirs. Even Hamas has a legitimate beef: the Israeli constriction of traffic into and out of Gaza. I’m not a big fan of Khalid Meshaal, who leads the Hamas military wing, but I do believe the peace process is severely hampered by the unwillingness of the United States (and the E.U.) to talk directly with the Hamas leadership. During the presidential campaign, Obama ditched an advisor–Rob Malley of the International Crisis Group–because he had talked directly with Meshaal, among others. I hope Obama will revisit this policy decision now.