US politicians unequivocal in support for Israel


AMERICAN REACTION:WHILE EUROPEAN governments have struggled to agree a coherent response to the crisis in Gaza, the reaction of the Bush administration has been a model of clarity, expressing unequivocal support for Israel’s military operation.

“This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas – a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel’s destruction,” US president George W Bush said in his weekly radio address last Saturday.

“In response to these attacks on their people, the leaders of Israel have launched military operations on Hamas positions in Gaza. As a part of their strategy, Hamas terrorists often hide within the civilian population, which puts innocent Palestinians at risk. Regrettably, Palestinian civilians have been killed in recent days.”

Democratic congressional leaders have endorsed the president’s view, with House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid condemning Hamas but offering no criticism of Israel’s actions.

Maryland governor Martin O’Malley last week added his voice to Democratic declarations of support for Israel.

“Just as Hamas chose to provoke a military response from Israel with endless rocket attacks, Hamas also has the choice to reject terror and violence with an immediate ceasefire, recognise Israel’s right to exist, and accept the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians as they work toward a just and lasting peace,” he said.

“In this current conflict, the United States stands with its democratic ally Israel in her desire for a lasting peace in the Middle East with secure borders.”

US president-elect Barack Obama, breaking his silence about the Gaza war, expressed deep concern yesterday about the loss of civilian lives in Gaza and Israel.

Speaking after Israeli tank shells killed at least 40 Palestinians at a UN school where civilians had taken shelter, Mr Obama told reporters “the loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel is a source of deep concern for me”. But otherwise he has insisted that the US has “one president at a time” and it would be inappropriate for him to make any statement.

Mr Obama apparently felt no such inhibition following November’s bomb attacks in Mumbai, which he condemned immediately and without reservation. The president-elect has commented freely since his election on numerous domestic issues, from the economic crisis to the controversial appointment of his successor as Illinois’s junior senator.

Like his nominee for secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – who has also remained silent on Gaza – Mr Obama supported Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon. During a visit last summer to the Israeli town of Sderot, which has been the target of Hamas missiles, Mr Obama said he understood Israel’s need to respond to the attacks.

“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 said.

If US politicians are overwhelmingly supportive of Israel’s action in Gaza, the US public is almost evenly divided on the issue, according to a Rasmussen poll conducted last week. It found that 44 per cent said Israel should have taken military action against the Palestinians, but 41 per cent said it should have tried to find a diplomatic solution to the problems.

Among Democrats, 55 per cent said Israel should have sought a diplomatic solution first, compared to 31 per cent who supported the military operation, which Republicans backed by a margin of more than two to one.

Just over half of those polled fear Israel’s actions will cause more terrorism against the US, with 17 per cent saying it is “very likely”.