Boo-hoo: Gaza Offensive Making It Tougher for Obama to “Forge a Peace Deal”

The Washington Post has its Obama-centric glasses on, I see:

Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza yesterday, in retaliation for a nonstop barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas fighters, raised the prospect of an escalation of violence that could scuttle any hopes the incoming Obama administration harbored of forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

“If the casualty reports are accurate, Hamas is going to respond. And this isn’t a two- or three-day deal in which the genie is put back in the bottle,” said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author of “The Much Too Promised Land.” “This takes the already slim chance of an early, active and successful Obama engagement on Israel-Palestinian peace and lowers it to about zero.”

Israel has been warning for weeks that it would not tolerate regular rocket attacks launched from Hamas-controlled territory in the Gaza Strip, and it has been laying the groundwork for a new offensive with the collapse this month of a shaky six-month cease-fire. Still, the ferocity and scope of yesterday’s Israeli attacks, which killed at least 225, appeared to stun Western governments and analysts. Arab countries condemned Israel, and Saudi Arabia urged the United States to intervene to stop the attacks.

But in official statements, the Bush administration blamed Hamas, which it classifies as a terrorist group, and cautioned Israel only to avoid hurting innocent civilians.

, , , , One senior Bush administration official said he thinks the Israelis acted in Gaza “because they want it to be over before the next administration comes in.” Although Bush has largely been supportive of almost any Israeli action taken in the name of self-defense, the official pointed out: “They can’t predict how the next administration will handle it. And this is not the way they want to start with the new administration.”

This official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the Israelis are being vague about how long the offensive will last but have hinted it could continue well into the week. “I think the Israeli goal now is to damage Hamas enough so that Hamas will accept a real truce,” this official said. “I think it’s a plausible goal. They are not trying to overthrow Hamas. They are not trying to take over the Gaza Strip.”

But other U.S. analysts were skeptical the Israeli offensive would succeed in intimidating Hamas. “By now Israel should have realized that [this kind of attack] rarely has any decisive effect,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “At best you get another faltering cease-fire, and then the whole thing begins again. Both sides have been escalating to nowhere.”

Cordesman agreed with Miller that the prospects of a larger peace deal have probably been set back. Bush-brokered peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis have made some progress, but the two sides remain apart on key issues, and it is unclear what approach Obama will take to try to bridge the divide. Bush has focused on helping build up the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, but it is unclear how any peace deal would address the situation in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.

“Now I think what the Obama administration faces is at least two years or more before they can really think of having any serious movement” on the peace process, Cordesman said. “Every time this kind of violence breaks out, it becomes harder to move forward. It just creates more of a climate of hostility and anger.”

Notice the terminology used here: It is not “peace” that is being set back by Israel’s act of self-defense — it is the “hopes” of a “peace deal“; “engagement on Israel-Palestinian peace”; and the “peace process.”

Do we really want another “peace deal” or “peace process” that means nothing to “Palestinians” other than a temporary lull before the jihad resumes, or do we want real peace in the Middle East?

If we want only a pretense of peace– an opportunity for Obama to pretend to make a difference and collect a Nobel Peace Prize before the Palestinian jihad continues — then condemning Israel and urging it to stay its hand is the right approach.

If we want real and lasting peace in the Middle East, then Israel is doing exactly the right thing. The only question is whether it is doing too little.

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