Thursday, 6 November 2008

Barack Obama's turn to deal with Israel-Palestine conflict

Thursday, November 6th 2008


JERUSALEM - As President-elect Barack Obama was savoring his victory, a short-lived ceasefire between Israel and Hamas collapsed in a fusillade of mortars and missiles.

The headache that was Bill Clinton's and George Bush's for 16 years will become Obama's.

Gaza militants Wednesday lobbed dozens of rockets at Israeli border towns to avenge the deaths of six militants killed earlier in precision air strikes.

Israel unleashed the attack after uncovering a secret tunnel that was to be used to kidnap and kill their soldiers - and after finding rocket launchers poised to hit its border towns.

Secretary of State Rice acknowledged the obvious Wednesday: President Bush's hope for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is dead.

Rice was en route last night to the Middle East to set the stage for future talks, but adding to the uncertainty, Israel is due to have a general election in February. And Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' term as president ends in January.

The Palestinians also remain hopelessly divided between the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip and Fatah-dominated West Bank.

It all amounts to a major challenge for the American President. Israelis and Palestinians were not hopeful that Obama would have any better success than his predecessors in helping them end their cycle of violence.

"It is irrelevant who won," said Ali Abdullah, a Palestinian from the West Bank village of Turmusayya, of Obama's victory. "They are just pro-Israelis, that's it. The Zionist lobby is controlling both, Democratic and Republican, so it doesn't matter."

While Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hailed his victory as "historic and impressive," others made clear, as polls reflected, that Israel had preferred Republican John McCain.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer who represents terror victims in lawsuits against the Palestinian Authority and various terror groups, said she feared a return to Clintonian diplomacy.

"We know that there will be tremendous pressure on the Israeli government. We know that Obama is bringing back the old team from the Clinton administration that pushes Israel to do stupid mistakes and we hope they will not repeat their mistakes once again," she said.

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