Obama: Israeli actions in Gaza war may harden Palestinian attitudes for generations

Ahram Online , Tuesday 24 Oct 2023

Israeli actions in its war against Gaza, like cutting off food and water, could “harden Palestinian attitudes for generations” and weaken international support for Israel, former US President Barack Obama warned.

File photo: Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the Sandy Hook Promise Benefit in New York City, U.S., December 6, 2022. REUTERS


Obama, in rare comments on the Israel-Gaza war, said any Israeli military strategy that ignores the human costs of the war “could ultimately backfire.”

The Israeli government’s decision could also "erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long-term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region,” Obama added.

While condemning Hamas’ attack on Israel and reiterating his support for Israel’s right to defend itself, Obama said: “But even as we support Israel, we should also be clear that how Israel prosecutes this fight matters.”

As President Biden has repeatedly emphasized, Israel’s military strategy should abide by international law, including those laws that seek to avoid, to every extent, the death or suffering of civilian populations, Obama added in a statement on Monday. 

He said upholding international law is “vital for building alliances and shaping international opinion.” Obama emphasized that doing so is an “enormously difficult task,” noting that Israeli occupation army operations “often put civilians at risk.”

During his presidency, Obama often backed Israel's right to self-defence at the start of conflicts with Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza, but he quickly called for Israeli restraint once Palestinian casualties mounted from airstrikes.

Gaza, a 45 km-long (25-mile) strip, that is home to 2.3 million people, is now under a complete blockade from Israel.

The Obama administration sought, but ultimately failed to broker, a peace deal in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Since taking office in early 2021, Biden has not tried to resume long-stalled talks, saying that leaders on both sides were too stubborn and the climate was not right.

Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a testy relationship when Obama was in office, especially when Obama's administration was negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran.

The US had itself "fallen short of our higher values when engaged in war," especially after the 11 September 2001 attack, Obama confessed in his statement.

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