It’s sad to see that Obama’s response to the current situation in Israel and Palestine is to duck, especially since the logic he’s employed doesn’t make a lot of sense:
“The fact is that there is only one president at a time,” David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, reiterating a phrase that has become a mantra of the transition.
There are many issues where it matters that Obama is not yet President–issues where what matters is his authority as head of the executive or commander in chief. On those issues, it’s important for Obama to defer to Bush (or try to coordinate their efforts as the case may be). But while the United States’ reaction to the current crisis is important, it’s important so far as it signals our future stance towards Israel and the Palestinians, not so far as there are concrete changes that we can make before January 20th. Moreover, didn’t Obama just finish a campaign, one in which he had no compunction about saying what he’d do as President? What changed on Nov 4th, except for political expediency?
That expediency is the obvious motive for ducking–engaging with the conflict early on offers a lot of risk with little upside for him or his agenda.
Note: I wrote this a week ago, and let it sit. The message actually gets better with age, as the conflict escalates, and the time until Obama is officially president shrinks. There is also the real risk that by delaying statements on the conflict, Obama gives the appearance of unqualified support for Israel’s actions.