For four years, Bush refused to talk to Yasir Arafat, though Bill Clinton had negotiated with him, as had four Israeli prime ministers, two of who shared a Nobel Prize with Arafat. In his second term, Bush, after insisting Hamas be included in free elections in Palestine, refused to recognize Hamas when it won those elections.
Arafat was a terrorist and Hamas is a terrorist organization, declared Bush, and we don't negotiate with terrorists. Yet, Bush de-listed Libya as a state sponsor of terror and sent Condi Rice to chat up Col. Gadhafi, though Gadhafi still has on his hands the blood of scores of American school kids from the Lockerbie massacre of 1989 that Libya and Gadhafi engineered
For eight years, like the "dummy" in a hand of bridge, Bush has sat mute as his Israeli partner, Sharon or Olmert, played America's cards as well as their own. The Bush response to Saturday's carnage, as anticipated, was to blame Hamas for causing it and urge Israelis to be careful about civilian casualties as they go about their reprisals.
Whatever Israel decides, we support. For eight years that has been the most reliable guide to U.S. Middle East policy.
And Barack Obama? Forty-eight hours after the Israeli blitz began, he and his national security team remain silent.
Hopefully, Obama will bring with him a new Mideast policy, one made in the U.S.A., for the U.S.A. Hopefully, just as Israel has its private links to Syria through Turkey, to Hamas through Egypt and to Hezbollah, Obama will establish independent U.S. channels to all three, and adopt a separate U.S. policy toward all three, as Israel does.
While the United States must support Israel's right to defend her towns and to strike bases from which Israelis are being attacked, Obama should denounce the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, by Israel's cutting off their electricity in the dead of winter and denying them the food and medicine many need to survive.
For us to remain silent in the face of this comports neither with our interests or our values. Israel's policy of withholding from the weak and innocent of Gaza, women and children, the necessities of life, to punish the guilty who rule at the point of a gun, is a policy that Obama should declare the United States will no longer support with tax dollars.