As the world waits for the grand inauguration on January 20th, Obama will have to introduce himself to the world as the 44th US President with more solutions and more promises. Although he has been focusing on the financial crisis and terrorism, there are too many expectations now that the economic plan with its emphasis on job growth and tax cuts could bring back US prosperity. Yet, Obama has actually been very silent about his foreign policy directions. There are many foreign policy issues that Obama has not mentioned in his campaign and although economy will take centre stage for the first few months in office, there are pressing issues like the Middle East crisis that Obama will have to finally address. Now that the Gaza crisis has become an immediate international issue once again, the big question is what policy directions would Obama endorse for the Middle East?
The US could have certain options:
US could continue to support Israel
Political analysts have been suggesting that Obama might just stick to the current US policy of supporting Israel and although this would be in a way easy for Obama, continuing to support Israel despite Israeli aggression in Gaza or any future use of force by Israel against people of Gaza could put a lot of pressure on the US as the EU, UK, UN are not supporting Israel’s bombing strategy. So providing continuous support to Israel could actually harm US relations with the EU and UK governments and with the UN in the future. The UK and some EU leaders have pressed for a new UN resolution 1860 calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the US has abstained from voting for the resolution continuing to provide arms and military support to Israel. Would Obama continue to follow Bush’s strategy in the Middle East? Possibly not, he’ll possibly take a more moderate balanced stance.
US could mediate a peace deal and remain consistently neutral
The next option could be negotiating a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. US could initiate a peace agreement and a UN resolution that would support both the Israeli and the Palestinian cause and a resolution that Israel and Palestine would necessarily follow. UN resolutions on the Middle East crisis so far have proven ineffective and US could actually negotiate a deal between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities but remain politically neutral and work to prevent all future attacks on civilian targets whether in Israel, Palestine or Gaza. Remaining consistently politically neutral would imply that the US cannot remain vocal about its support of Israel’s policies. This would be perhaps the best direction for Obama and Obama should make it clear that US would no longer support Israel unconditionally nor provide support to Palestine for that matter until both sides agree to reach a truce and restore peace in the region.
US could have talks with the Jewish and Muslim leaders
Obama’s team could really look at the religious dimension of the Middle East crisis as the problem has huge religious implications, especially for the Arab leaders in the Middle East and actually talk to representatives of the Jews and Arabs who could in turn influence decision making at political levels. The US could initiate a peace talk primarily focused on the religious tensions in the Middle East and invite representatives of Shia and Sunni leaders as also the Jewish leaders to participate in discussion.
US could begin supporting moderate elements in Palestine or bolster support for Fatah
After the Israeli aggression in Gaza the US would face greater international pressure to condemn Israeli attacks that have been resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths in Gaza and this could lead to a stressful relationship between Israel and the US and can even bolster support for Palestinian authorities and back moderate Palestinian elements, if not Hamas. It is only expected that both Hamas and Israel being seen as aggressors and enemies of civilians, would actually increase international support for ‘Palestinian people’, as Hamas is widely considered as a terrorist group and Israel has also been accused of promoting state sponsored war with its neighbouring countries and international sympathy has now turned to the ‘people’ of Gaza. Thus a tilt towards Palestine or rather the more moderate elements within Palestine is a possibility, for the US, EU, UN and UK leaders. US could focus on moderate Palestinian authorities rather than Israeli authorities for peace initiatives.
US could take direct action against Hamas
This option is unlikely but not completely impossible as the US could continue to provide military and technical capabilities to Israel to wipe out Hamas and launch a joint operation with Israel to deter any terror moves by Hamas. However considering that Israel’s attacks in Gaza has been extremely unpopular and that any kind of military operation will result in further civilian deaths, Obama is unlikely to take this step. Hamas has also been consistently supporting Obama and Hamas continues to have support of the Muslim community so Obama‘s advisers would oppose any drastic measures against Hamas.
Considering all these options, withdrawing all support from Israel and remaining impartial on the Israel–Palestine issue as also drawing up a peace deal with the mediation of UN would be the best measures taken by the Obama administration. This would mean US should no longer continue to support Israel and Israel’s policies and now shift its policy from a pro-Israel stance to a neutral/impartial stance and emphasize on a peace agreement and insist that all future UN resolutions are maintained by both Israel and Palestine.