In a rare public statement on an ongoing foreign policy crisis, former U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his concerns over certain actions taken by Israel in its conflict with Hamas, emphasizing the potential long-term consequences and humanitarian impact of these decisions.
Speaking yesterday, Obama said, “The Israeli government’s decision to cut off food, water, and electricity to a captive civilian population (in Gaza) threatens not only to worsen a growing humanitarian crisis but 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 and stability in the region.”\
The conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated after Hamas launched an assault on Israel on October 7, leading to extensive Israeli air strikes in response. These air strikes have resulted in a significant loss of life, with Gaza officials reporting over 5,000 Palestinian casualties.
Obama, who had frequently backed Israel’s right to self-defense during his presidency, reiterated his support for Israel’s right to defend itself but cautioned about the impact of military strategies that disregard the human costs of war.
He said, “Any Israeli military strategy that ignores the human costs of the war could ultimately backfire.”
It remains unclear whether Obama coordinated his statement with the current U.S. President, Joe Biden, who served as his Vice President for eight years. During his tenure, Obama was known for advocating Israel’s right to self-defense at the outset of conflicts with Hamas but subsequently called for Israeli restraint as Palestinian casualties mounted.
Gaza, a 45-kilometer (25-mile) strip of land with a population of 2.3 million people, has been under the political control of Hamas since 2007.
However, it faces a blockade imposed by Israel. The Obama administration had sought, but ultimately failed, to broker a peace deal through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
President Biden, who took office in early 2021, has not initiated efforts to resume the long-stalled peace talks, citing the intransigence of leaders on both sides and the unfavorable political climate.
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In his statement, Obama acknowledged past U.S. actions during wartime, saying, “The U.S. had itself fallen short of our higher values when engaged in war,” particularly in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Obama’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was often strained during his presidency, particularly when Obama’s administration was negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran.
During that time, Joe Biden, serving as Obama’s Vice President, often played a mediating role between the two leaders.