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Inside Story Americas

Gaza: How can the US manage the crisis?

With the changed landscape across the Middle East, we ask what role can Barack Obama play as the conflict escalates.
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2012 15:46

To Hamas and other Palestinian groups, the US president sent a strong condemnation, saying there is no justification for "the cowardly acts" of launching rockets into Israel.

"As United States has said many times, it cannot want something that the actual leaders in the region are unwilling to accept. So we can't force an Israeli prime minister and a Palestinian president to sign an agreement that they are not yet willing to sign .... In fairness, there are two visions of how to get to a peace agreement, President Abbas is committed to a peaceful negotiation, Hamas is not. United States is not going to endorse a group that rather than seeking peace wants to continue the resistance."

- PJ Crowley, former US state department spokesman

To the Israeli prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, he sent a message of support and simply urged him to "avoid" civilian casualties.   

So far around two dozen Palestinians have been killed including six children and a pregnant woman.  Three Israeli civilians have been killed.

This is a conflict that the world has become all too familiar with. It was almost exactly four years ago that Israel launched a 22-day operation in Gaza that left more than a thousand Palestinians, and 13 Israelis dead.  

At the time Barack Obama had just been elected but had not yet assumed office. The reaction from outgoing President George W Bush was much the same as what we are hearing from Obama today.

But over the last few years, the Palestinian-Isreali conflict has been largely ignored as unrest swept across the Middle East. Democratically-elected leaders in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt are showing new solidarity with the Palestinians.

So what options does President Obama have in dealing with this crisis as US influence in the region wanes?  

The White House response has been that of support for Israel.  A statement released by the office of the press secretary on Thursday said:

"If we are going to forward a process here, the United States is going to have to become engaged .... here we are with a four-year presidency, no re-election campaign in the offing, with the United states pivoting towards Asia, [and] new democracies in the Middle East, maybe now is the time to intervene [with] much more substance and robustly than he [Obama] has before."

- Mark Perry, a military and foreign affairs analyst

"The President reiterated to Prime Minister Netanyahu the United States' support for Israel's right to self-defence in light of the barrage of rocket attacks being launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians.

"The president urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. The two agreed that Hamas needs to stop its attacks on Israel to allow the situation to de-escalate."

From the moment of Israel's creation, successive US administrations have appreciated the special relationship between our two nations.

Israel continues to be the one true democracy in the Middle East that brings stability to a region where it is in short supply.

Whether fighting Soviet expansionism or the current threats from regional aggression and terrorism, Israel has been a consistent, reliable ally and friend and has helped to advance US interests.

So what role can and should the US play in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as the Middle East continues to change?  

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Kimberly Halkett, is joined by guests: PJ Crowely, former US state department spokesman; Ali Gharib, a senior editor for The Daily Beast blog, Open Zion; and Mark Perry, the author of Talking to terrorists, why America must engage with its enemies.

"This unacceptable aggression on human beings - on men and women - this is an issue. I warn them again, and that I confirm again, for those who are carrying out the aggression - that they will never rule over the people of Gaza. We will not leave Gaza on its own."

Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian president



LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CONFLICT

  • Israel has hit more than 600 targets in Gaza since Wednesday  
  • Israel say about 550 rockets have been fired from Gaza since Wednesday  
  • A third of the rockets fired from Gaza have been intercepted  
  • More than 20 Palestinians, including five children, and at least three Israelis have died  
  • A rocket fired from Gaza has landed close to Jerusalem  
  • Israel has been calling up thousands of reservists  
  • Egypt's president Morsi has pledged that Gaza will not be left on its own  
  • White house: Hamas must stop its attacks so situation de-escalates  
  • Obama has also spoken with Egyptian president Morsi

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