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25 Oct, 2023 00:38

Obama issues warning to Israel

The harsh treatment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza could “backfire,” the former US president said
Obama issues warning to Israel

Former US President Barack Obama has warned Israel that a response strategy to the attacks by Hamas that “ignores the human cost” would be counterproductive.

Couched in an endorsement of the Jewish state’s right to defend itself against “wanton violence” by the Palestinian militant group, Obama's warning comes amid mass civilian deaths, reported atrocities and widespread crippling of infrastructure by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza.

In an essay released on Medium on Monday, Obama backed President Joe Biden’s call for the US to “support our long-time ally in going after Hamas, dismantling its military capabilities,” and freeing the hostages taken in the October 7 attack.

However, Obama argued, it is important that Israel’s strategy “abides by international law” and minimizes the death and suffering of civilians. Not just because it is “morally just and reflects our belief in the inherent value of every human life” but because it is “vital for building alliances and shaping international opinion — all of which are critical for Israel’s long-term security.”

Pointing out that thousands of Palestinians have already been killed, including children, and hundreds of thousands displaced, Obama argued that the crackdown on Gaza could “further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long term efforts” to achieve peace.

Obama advised both the US and Israel to reach out to “those Palestinian leaders and organizations that recognize Israel’s right to exist” and start “articulating a viable pathway” for Palestinian statehood, as “the best and perhaps only way to achieve the lasting peace and security most Israeli and Palestinian families yearn for.”

He also urged both countries to “to do our best to put our best values, rather than our worst fears, on display,” and oppose both “anti-Semitism in all its forms” and “anti-Muslim, anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian sentiment.”

This means “guarding against dehumanizing language towards the people of Gaza, or downplaying Palestinian suffering — whether in Gaza or the West Bank — as irrelevant or illegitimate,” concluded Obama, who was the US president from 2009 to 2017.

The October 7 incursion by Hamas militants resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 Israelis. Israel has responded by declaring war and vowing to “dismantle” the Palestinian group, while imposing a “total blockade” on Gaza. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen declared on Tuesday that there was “no room for a balanced approach” after the attacks, and that “Hamas must be wiped out from the world!” 

Meanwhile, West Jerusalem’s envoy to the UN called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to resign on Tuesday, for daring to suggest that the Hamas attack “did not happen in a vacuum” and may have been related to “56 years of suffocating occupation” by Israel.