There is much that went wrong during George W. Bush’s administration, but one thing that went right was the U.S. relationship with Israel. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon got all the political and diplomatic cover he needed to break the Second Intifada.
When we talk about “international pressure” on Israel, we are really talking about American pressure on Israel. Hamas is internationally isolated. Apart from the stance of the U.S., Hamas is in a weaker position than was Arafat during the Second Intifada.
The difference is that the Obama administration seems to be acting as if they are waiting for events in Gaza to create the public-relations circumstances in which Obama could knife the Israeli government in the ribs without creating too much of a public relations backlash in the U.S. Absent that, the Obama administration is taking passive-aggressive shots at Israel by demanding impossible conditions for targeting terrorists who hide behind civilians, and suspending American flights to Israel — until Senator Ted Cruz threatened to make the travel ban politically costly.
The travel ban has been lifted, but the message is clear. Obama is only going to support Israel as much as he is forced to by domestic American politics, and a public-relations disaster for Israel could well see the Obama administration forcing the Israelis to agree to a cease-fire and concessions to Hamas. That is why Israel is conducting the operation as if any misstep would lead to being forced into a unilateral retreat.
I don’t think Obama is pro-Hamas in any way. I do think that Obama is looking for any excuse to stick it to Netanyahu. t isn’t like the US is gaining anything in terms of international public relations. The U.S. is getting just as much blame as we would have if Obama had never taken shots at Israel. As President Obama’s hopes of getting major new legislation have withered (though I wouldn’t count out some version of the Gang of Eight’s immigration proposal), he seems to be governing more and more based on spite.