BEIRUT -- If the Israeli attack on Gaza that started 18 days ago was designed partly to send a message to incoming U.S. President Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress in the past week seems to have joined the battle to handcuff the new president and lay down the law for him, even before he takes office.
Obama has tried to remain aloof and stay out of the political battle over the Gaza war by making no substantive statements about it. Israel and its many supporters in Washington have different plans for him. He stayed away from the war, but they have brought the war to him -- shoving it down his throat as his first pre-incumbency lesson in how American presidents behave vis-à-vis Israel’s desires -- if they wish to remain in power.
The House of Representatives voted last Friday by 390-5 for a resolution that completely backed Israel in its onslaught against Gaza, specifically affirming “Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza". A day earlier, the Senate overwhelmingly supported Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorism.
Such extraordinary one-sided support for Israel by the United States Congress mirrors the same position taken by the administration. Both President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in press meetings that Hamas was to blame for the current war and the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, and that any ceasefire had to ensure that Hamas stopped attacking Israel. They seemed incomprehensibly blind to Israel’s combined strangulation of and assault on Gaza. (And as this goes to press, comes the story of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert bragging about forcing George Bush and Condi Rice to abstain from the UN call for a ceasefire that Rice helped draft.)