'Obama angry at Netanyahu over Gaza assault'

Timing of the recent escalation in tension between Israel and Gaza is not coincidental. It is a calculated move, Phyllis Bennis, director of the Institute for Policy Studies has told RT.

The Israelis launched their attack shortly after the US elections and shortly before the US was about to swear in a president at the inauguration in January and just before Israeli elections were scheduled as well. So there is no question that it has everything to do with Israeli politics,” she says.

But no matter how long the conflict lasts, it will come at a tremendous “human cost” to the Palestinian population with damaging consequences to Israeli-Egyptian relations.

RT:What are the chances of an all-out war as we’ve seen in 2008?

Phyllis Bennis: I think we need to be very clear that when we speak of an all-out war, like Cast Lead, it was a very one-sided war. If you just look at the casualties’ figures of that horrific three weeks of the Israeli assault on Gaza – there were more than 1,400 Palestinians killed, the majority of them civilians. And there were 13 Israelis, of whom seven were civilians and five of them were killed in friendly fire. So the disparity of casualties, and we’re seeing it again now is enormous.

This is a very dangerous moment if we again look back at the Cast Lead as a model, there’s some timing parallels. In both cases, the Israelis launched their attack shortly after the US elections and shortly before the US was about to swear in a president at the inauguration in January, and just before Israeli elections were scheduled as well. So there is no question that it has everything to do with Israeli politics.

We also should remember though, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, when asked about the urgency of the need of a ceasefire in Gaza because of the human suffering that had gotten already so dramatic, her answer to the United Nations was, “ We don’t need a ceasefire, yet,” and that remains her legacy, and I hope that Susan Rice and her colleagues at the State Department do not take up that same claim, but in fact recognize the need for an emergency, urgent ceasefire right now, even as we look at the need to deal with this in a broader context. The context of ending the occupation of Gaza, which takes the form of a siege through which Gazans are surrounded by the Israeli military.

RT:But we’re at the moment seeing Obama backing the Israelis very publicly, when before election he actually distanced himself from PM Netanyahu, didn’t he?

PB: He did, but I think it is important to recognize that that distancing was very much at the level of the relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu. It never was a strategic distancing from Israel. The Israeli president, for example, has already said that president Obama has done more for Israel, in terms of military aid, protection at the United Nations, support for Israel’s anti-missile defense system – the Iron Dome system – that in all the important ways, he put it, President Obama has been one of the most supportive of all the US presidents.

There’s a personal dispute that remains and I don’t think this is going to change that. I think that President Obama is undoubtedly still very angry at PM Netanyahu for launching this at this moment where things are so tense on the border with Syria, where things are tense throughout the region and where there is a great deal of political uncertainty going on now as a result of this current escalation, but even before this because of the militarization of the situation in Syria.

RT:Where could all this lead? Is this really a dangerous situation that we’re seeing now?

PB: It is very dangerous! I do not think it is very dangerous in a sense that this will become a ground war in which other countries surrounding Israel and Gaza, Israel and Palestine will necessarily join in. I do not see the Egyptian government going to send in troops to defend Gaza, for instance. But this is going to lead to even greater political instability in the region. It’s going to result first of all in enormous human cost to the people of Gaza, who since 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead have been able to rebuild very, very little of what was destroyed in that operation, in those three weeks of assaults.

Very little has been able to be rebuilt. Gazans still don’t have electricity 24 hours a day. It’s still on only for a few hours. If bombing this time goes at the electrical generators again, as it did four years ago, it will be another period of years before that could be rebuild. So there is a devastating human impact.

On the political side we’re likely to see a much greater distancing between the Israeli and Egyptian governments. I don’t think as I said, we’re going to see the engagement of the Egyptian government directly militarily with Israel certainly, but some kind of reconsideration of the Camp David Accord and its terms are a likely follow up to the Egyptian decision to withdraw its ambassador from Tel Aviv, which it did just yesterday.

So I think we’re already seeing an increase in instability on the political side.