In an effort to “prevent Palestinians from attacking towns in southern Israel” with rockets, Israel today undertook its third day of offensive military airstrikes in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, raising the death toll to more than 300. The Palestinian casualty numbers have been described as the highest over such a brief period since the 1967 Six-Day war. Scores of Israelis have been wounded — and at least one killed — by rocket attacks fired by Palestinians. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the situation “all out war.”
While Bush has been briefed on the situation by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, he has opted not to interrupt his final vacation as president to make a public statement on the crisis. For someone who has enjoyed the most vacation days as sitting president — including days spent relaxing in comfort during Hurricane Katrina and in the lead-up to 9/11 — it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Bush prioritizes vacationing over crisis management.
Even an emerging crisis in the Middle East, one he pledged to resolve just 13 months ago, has not drawn President George W. Bush from his final vacation before leaving office. Despite his personal pledge at Annapolis last year to broker a deal between Israel and the Palestinians before 2009, this weekend Bush sent his spokesmen to comment in his stead.
Since departing Washington for Crawford on Friday, President Bush has made no attempt to be seen in public. In fact, he has yet to leave his ranch.
Today, in a press briefing delivered from the “Western White House” in Crawford, TX, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe was asked what is on Bush’s schedule today. In addition to receiving “updates on the ongoing situation,” Johndroe said, “I expect he’ll probably ride his bicycle today and spend time with Mrs. Bush.”
President-elect Barack Obama has also been monitoring the violence from his vacationing spot in Hawaii, staying in contact with Bush and Rice. “President Bush speaks for the United States until Jan. 20 and we’re going to honor that,” Obama adviser David Axelrod said.
One senior Bush administration official told the Washington Post that he thinks the Israelis acted in Gaza “because they want it to be over before the next administration comes in” and because “they can’t predict how the next administration will handle it.” Indeed, Bush has become fairly predictable in how he manages these sorts of crises.
On ABC's This Week yesterday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) expressed his hope that removing Bush's hands-off approach may help address the situation. "I'm hopeful that as this transition comes, as we look to January, that strong presidential leadership can make a difference here."
Jon Alterman, head of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, speculated that Israeli leaders synchronized their retaliatory attacks to political calendars in both Israel and the U.S. More moderate politicians running in the Feb. 10 national election needed to appear strong against Hamas, and it was perhaps better to strike before Bush left office on Jan. 20 because they weren't as sure what Obama's reaction would be.
"I think Obama will be supportive of Israel, but will bring a little more skepticism to it," Alterman said. "I think Obama will start from premise that Israel is an ally, but that we have to look at this fresh."
This is taken from two different sources. Part of it is from Think Progress and another is from a story by the Associated Press.
Some of what is happening in the Middle East is hard for me to justify. I understand both sides, yet it is hard to get news here that tells the true story of what is really going on. We are told mostly only what is happening from the side of the Israli's because they are supposed to be the good guy's, yet from what I can see, I am not sure they are right now.
Oh, I know, Hamas is bad, they are supposed to be a terrorist organization. But, really are who are they hurting lately?? That's my question. Maybe I am just naive, and just haven't been paying close enough attention to what has been happening. This is just my opinion, but right now it looks like the big boy is beating up on the little boy...and I really don't like that.