Where is Obama?
GC at the The Majlis points out Obama's thundering silence:
As a journalist covering this story, it's been striking to see Washington's irrelevance over the last 72 hours. We've heard almost nothing from Obama or other US officials -- one 20-second sound bite from Hillary Clinton, that's it -- compared with (literally) hours of material from Turkish, Israeli, Arab and European leaders. The White House has gone out of its way to avoid taking a high-profile stance on the flotilla attack.
But here's the thing: Nobody in the Muslim world seems surprised! After the US ran interference for Israel at the United Nations, there wasn't much anger in the Arabic press. Instead there was mostly a sense of cynicism, like nobody expected America to behave differently.
We've seen a few anti-American protests over the last few days -- there was a small demonstration outside the US consulate in Adana, for example -- but overall there's been very little vitriol directed at the United States.
It's not for lack of interest in the flotilla attack, which has been covered almost non-stop on Arabic news networks for three days. But you get the sense nobody had higher expectations for the White House.
So when Gibbs says Obama's weak response won't affect his outreach to the Muslim world, maybe he's right. Obama's outreach has been stalling for months, particularly in the Arab world. He increasingly looks like just another American president: The promises of his Cairo speech are fading, he refuses to take strong public stands against Israel, and he's carrying on many of the Bush administration's most inflammatory policies (stepping up drone strikes, failing to close Guantanamo Bay, etc.).
The flotilla attack was a golden opportunity for Obama to reverse that trend, to demonstrate that he's serious about shifting US policy in the region. He passed on that opportunity -- and, in doing so, merely confirmed what many people in the region already suspected about his presidency.
While the US is now backing some relief for the Gaza blockade, no real change of approach is being seriously considered, apparently. They want to relieve the blockade, not really end it and restore Palestinian economic integrity.
Joe Biden says the problem is Hamas, Laura Rozen points out:
The Vice President also said Hamas shares blame for Palestinian suffering and said Hamas should join a Palestinian reconciliation government with its political rival, Fatah.
"So the problem is this would end tomorrow if Hamas agreed to form a government with the Palestinian Authority on the conditions the international community has set up," Biden said.
Except the "international conditions" are ridiculous and designed to prevent a national unity government while going ahead with a West Bank First policy. Rozen cites Biden's interview with Charlie Rose:
Joe Biden: Yes, we know that, but they could have easily brought it in here and we'd get it through. And so now the question is what do we do? Well, we had made it clear, the President of the United States has spoken three times, yesterday with Bibi, or the day before yesterday, he's spoken once yesterday with a guy that I have spent a fair amount of time with, with Prime Minister Erdogan in Turkey; the Turks, we passed a resolution in the U.N. saying we need a transparent and open investigation of what happened. It looks like things are --
Charlie Rose: International investigation --
Joe Biden: Well, an investigation run by the Israelis, but we're open to international participation, just like the investigation run on the sunken sub in — off the coast of Korea. That was run by South Korea, but the international community joined in that investigation. And so that is very possible here as well. I might add by the way for all those who say the Israelis, you know, you know, you can't trust them, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled today that every one of the people on those ships had to be released immediately, immediately.
So in the Korean case, the victim gets to do the investigation, whereas in the flotilla case, it's the aggressor? Of course, no surprise to see this: AIPAC embraces Biden statement.
The Obama administration has no moral ground to stand on in this case, so it's either spinning by keeping focus on the investigation rather than ending the blockade or keeping silent. Shameful. The US needs a clean break in its relationship with the Israeli regime, a radical departure. Will we ever get it?
Because the other alternative will become, over time, at the region's stronger states solving the problem by excluding the United States, rather than calling for it to play a greater role. Right now, the net balance points towards Washington being a liability for regional peace — in Iraq, in its attitude towards Iran, and of course in its defense of Israel no matter what.