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A major military conflict that only promises to escalate has erupted between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, prompting Egypt to recall its ambassador to Israel and presenting President Obama with a first post-election foreign policy test.

The developments are serious. In a region destabilized by Syria’s convulsions, Jordanian protests and Egyptian uncertainty, Israel essentially declared war today with Palestinian-controlled Gaza, a war that some fear could have wide-reaching impacts. (Note: since Gaza is not a nation state, no formal declaration occurs.)

In short, this is what has occurred: with rockets falling from Gaza, Israel today assassinated a top Hamas commander, bombed dozens of targets (with many innocents killed) and called up its reservists in preparation for an expanded campaign the IDF is calling "Operation Pillar of Defense."

The targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari, who was behind the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, was more than just another extrajudicial killing. It was the killing of someone Barak Ravid calls “Netanyahu’s Osama bin Laden.” It was the killing of a top Hamas leader that promises intense responses, making it just the beginning.

The IDF released video footage of the targeted assassination, celebrated its success quite starkly and warned of more to come:

IDF released video of drone strike on Ahmed Jabari, head of Hamas military wing
This sudden and escalating situation presents President Obama with his first chance to weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his second term, and is the first (new) foreign policy situation to which he will be compelled to respond.

The question is: what will that response look like?

In his first term, despite a chilly relationship with Netanyahu, Obama was consistent in his defense of Israel’s right to employ targeted drone strikes and use military force against Palestinians, particularly in Gaza.

Some considered such stances as the product of Obama’s electoral concerns. With the election over, we are about to learn whether Israel’s escalation into a possible, full-scale war will elicit condemnation from the White House or approval.

It’s worth noting that, in 2002, when Israel assassinated a top Hamas terrorist, Sheikh Salah Shehada – a move that destroyed a burgeoning cease-fire and destabilized the region – President Bush voiced his rare, public disapproval. He called the move “heavy-handed” and critiqued Israel for doing nothing more than moving away from peace.

Now, ten years later, how will President Obama respond. What role with the U.S. play in this burgeoning crisis?

We’ll soon find out.

Author's Note:

If the State Department's release is any indication, Obama may retain his distanced approach to Middle East peace.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    I'm "THE" Troubadour," and not "Troubadour" without the article. We're different people here at DK :)

    by David Harris Gershon on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 03:15:45 PM PST

  •  Come again? Obama's first foreign policy test? (4+ / 0-)

    Dude, this is the start of his second term. Where you been?

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 03:19:41 PM PST

  •  Israel didn't declare War (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Farkletoo, lostboyjim, erush1345

    As usual - the title is misleading.

    "'Touch it dude' - President Barack Obama"

    by volleyboy1 on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 03:20:06 PM PST

  •  Declare war on WHOM? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Farkletoo, volleyboy1, erush1345

    Very deceptive title. Worse than the original. Please revise.

    Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

    by Clem Yeobright on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 03:20:18 PM PST

  •  Israel is in a tight spot since in the past (0+ / 0-)

    Gaza incursions counted on a relatively quiet Syrian border with no threats to the Golan region.  In the past couple of weeks the Syrian turmoil includes rebel groups apparently capturing sections of territory, with incidental firing into Israeli territory by Syrian regular forces with Israeli retaliation.

    There had been some speculation on possible Israeli incursions into Syria, along the lines of their Lebanese incursions though Bibi denies this is likely.

    Problem for Israel in this situation is that' they allege that some members of the Syrian opposition are "radical Islamists" who may take advantage of the situation to mount raids into Israel.

    At any rate, it appears that Israel is facing a potential 3 front conflict

  •  We should recall OUR ambassador (5+ / 0-)

    and make our displeasure very clear. We do not approve of naked Israeli aggression.

    How many innocent people will they kill this time?

    •  have we done that in the past re Israel? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
    •  Naked???? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      volleyboy1, lostboyjim, dhonig, erush1345

      It is a much delayed response to hundreds of rocket attacks that started weeks ago.

      •  "hundreds"? try a lot less (0+ / 0-)

        and all those were in response to further israeli aggression against Palestine. and it still all boils down to the state of ethnic cleansing and genocide that exists in palestine now

        •  Try Hundreds - remember Google is your friend (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          "'Touch it dude' - President Barack Obama"

          by volleyboy1 on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 05:01:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  source? (0+ / 0-)

            the IDF perchance?

            those are really reliable.

            •  Really? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FG, VClib, erush1345

              Of course you ignored my link from Reuters

              But here is a handy list:

              November 9

              In the afternoon, Palestinians fired two Qassam rockets into the Eshkol Regional Council, causing no injuries or damage.[293]

              November 10

              Palestinians fired 25 rockets at Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gan Yavne and other communities. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system intercepted at least one rocket aimed at Ashdod.[294]

              November 11

              Gazan terror groups fired over 100 rockets and mortars at Israeli cities and towns. A barrage against Sderot, timed to coincide with the morning commute to work, injured 3 people. One victim, physical education teacher Moshik Levy, was moderately wounded by shrapnel and glass from his car windshield which exploded in his face. A fourth person was injured while fleeing for cover, and five more people were treated for acute stress reaction. Two homes, one in Sderot and one in the Eshkol Regional Council, were damaged by direct rocket hits. United States Ambassador Dan Shapiro declared that his country "supports Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens from these attacks."[294]

              November 14

              Following the Israeli targeted killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, Palestinian terrorists fired over 20 rockets at Israeli cities. For the first time, a Grad missile was fired toward Dimona, home to Israel's Negev Nuclear Research Center. Seventeen Grad missiles were fired at Beersheba. One rocket directly hit a store in the city, lightly injuring one woman. Another exploded into a car, setting it on fire. Several other buildings were reportedly damaged. Additional rockets were launched at Ashkelon and the Eshkol Regional Council. The Iron Dome defense system intercepted some 15 rockets. Israeli authorities asked residents within range of rocket fire to remain within 15 seconds of a bomb shelter at all times. Municipalities in the region, including those of Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon, cancelled school for the following day.[295][296]

              You know that sometimes Reality has a bit of a bias. (/snark).  Show me your source that says only single digits of rockets landed in Southern Israel. Please.

              You are certainly entitled to your own opinions but you sure as hell are not entitled to your facts.

              Just Sayin'

              "'Touch it dude' - President Barack Obama"

              by volleyboy1 on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 06:10:08 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Can someone explain it to me?! (0+ / 0-)

    Why doesn't Israel have a problem starting wars with the Palestinians, but won't step a pinky towards the Iranians without us?!

  •  ESCALATES War? (5+ / 0-)

    Um, did I miss something? When did Israel declare War?

    Oh right, typical I/P overreaction

    Minority rights should never be subject to majority vote.

    by lostboyjim on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 04:04:10 PM PST

  •  It is hard to see what Obama gains by getting (0+ / 0-)


    It seems pretty clear the end game for Palestinians has already occurred. They live on reservations that will probably only shrink. No candidate that trys to stop this is electable to the presidency.

    It is hard to see what Oama can do short of threatening to discontinue aid, but we all know that will never happen.

  •  Israel is right in this, and Hamas deserves (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    volleyboy1, Kane in CA, erush1345

    everything Israel dishes. It is a bunch of anti-Semitic homophobic misogynist religious fanatic thugs. For weeks it has been firing rockets at civilian targets for no reason. It is time for them to go.

    Just a week ago we were promoting President Obama's re-election in part because he killed Osama bin Laden and 13 of his deputies. We certainly can't complain when Israel does the same to its enemies!

  •  Fish in a barrel (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sporks, WattleBreakfast, stargaze

    and people held in an open air prison - where the stated intent was to make them very hungry, but not starve them to death.  That would be bad PR.

    How many more of our dollars will support this "cleansing" of the land to essentially steal it all?  They may as well make reservations like we did to our natives.

    Its amazing.... what Palestine does is always an unwarrented attack - never self-defense.  Defense, apparently is something only the right wing fucktard running Israel can claim.  But as always, the victors set the memes, create the storyline, push the propaganda and win.

    Obama should call in our Ambassador and cut off all foreign aid.

    I guess this is what happens when you ask the UN for recognition.

    I am sickened.

    •  No this is what happens when you fire 100's of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      missiles into the middle of Civilian areas.

      As for your other dreams... At least not for four more years until Ron Paul can run again. Sorry. Here is the U.S. Response:

      Meanwhile, the US has thrown its support behind Israel and condemned the rocket attacks on southern Israel.

      "We support Israel's right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement on Wednesday.

       "We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence," he added.

      "'Touch it dude' - President Barack Obama"

      by volleyboy1 on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 06:18:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Obama should call in our Ambassador cut off aid" (0+ / 0-)

      Yes. I don't want my tax dollars going to Israel

      Or wasted in Afghanistan or dronestrikes in Pakistan and other places, or wasted in mass incarceration.

      I want my taxpayer money to go to help people, not destruction.

      The boss needs you, you don't need him. -- France general strike, May 1968

      by stargaze on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 11:31:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Shame on Israel do (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    volleyboy1, Kane in CA

    Shooting back.


    Done with politics for the night? Have a nice glass of wine with Palate Press: The online wine magazine.

    by dhonig on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 05:54:18 PM PST

  •  Timing is always interesting in IP. I wonder (0+ / 0-)

    whether this is related to the timing of the UN non member state vote due in the next  week or two, for which the drafts have already been circulated (in Arabic so I am not attaching them),  and is something designed to discourage in the voters what was otherwise seen to be a losing vote from Bibi's perspective.

    And then there is the January Israeli  election, called way before time by Bibi . . . .  and Ehud Ohlmert, a prior PM if Israel but recently sidelined by corruption charges, is actively in politics again, and a risk to Bibi in said elections, as well as other Israeli internal political problems Bibi has, the sound of which can be drowned out by this.

    All of this while the political situation in the US is so chaotic that there is no real possibility of a coherent US response until the Benghazi mess settles.

    There are also reports that one possible Bibi-an, not Israeli, position being discussed in today's Israeli papers is that Abbas should be deposed if the UN vote nevertheless goes forward in the Palestinian direction. Not because he may be corrupt but because of the possible UN vote outcome, and after it. As if that were something Bibi could and should be able to do in the ordinary course and then presumably argue that Palestine does not have a stable enough government to be recognized  as a state at this time, or something like that. Do not ask me please how on earth one can have good faith Israeli Palestinian  direct negotiations when one side of them is speculating openly about doing this to the other side. I don't know.

    In the same editions in which there appeared in one of the major papers a long discussion of the relationship of the UN vote and Palestinian access as to Cast Lead in the International Criminal Court which would perhaps result from Palestine winning that vote, given the grounds on which the first attempt was rejected by the now retired head of the administrative part of the ICC enterprise.

     It is also interesting how it is despite the allegedly against-weapons Israeli blockage which manages to blockade, food medicine, power, conventional building materials, electrical generation and water purification plants,  spices  and the like, and the blockage which does not permit Gaza to consider whatever resources in the oil and gas division may be off its own coast but under Israeli military control by reason of said blockade when it is going forth quickly north of there,  never manages to catch all of those politically well timed missiles that conveniently appear from time to time and interdiction of which are the one and only alleged purpose of the blockade.

    I am also reminded that for the last two or three years, the Bibian government has been engaged in moving bedouins out of the south, citizenship or not, and replacing them with 'his own' communities, now closer to Gaza than before.  

    And this is going to get worse. Volleyboy1 has a diary up  from early this AM, which I recommend reading by readers,  which notes that reserves are being called up to the IDF. That's boots on the ground. (Readers are warned that there is a commenter, not Volley or any of his constituency,  who has brought his particular, hijacking, version of  generally forbidden anti content  into more than one of the IP diaries today of the kind bad enough for HRers to run out of donuts as to him, and  advise not to hold his particular views against other pro Israeli IP posters. Volley and others have useful things to say today which should not be allowed to be distracted from,  hijacked or lost in noise. )

    I wonder when the invasion will start this time, when the power and food will be cut off,  and what the civilians of Gaza are supposed to do this time. This has the feel of Cast Lead all over again. Nothing is ever simple or straightforward if Bibi is in it.

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