American officials repeated support yesterday for Israel’s right to take military action in the Gaza Strip as Israel stepped up a four-day-old offensive against Hamas militants, but the U.S. is unlikely to take the lead in any policy push in the Middle East, according to one expert.
“I think what’s going to happen is the U.S. is going to continue to react to what’s going on. This is going to be a hallmark of American foreign policy in the coming years as we’re seeing crisis after crisis,” said foreign policy expert and author Gordon G. Chang.
President Obama repeated in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday America’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said yesterday, adding Obama has spoken with Israel’s leader nearly every day since the conflict began.
Obama also called Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday for help in curtailing the violence in Gaza, Rhodes said.
Morsi yesterday hosted leaders from Hamas and two key allies, Qatar and Turkey, to seek a way to end the fighting.
“There are discussions about the ways to bring a cease-fire soon, but there are no guarantees until now,” Morsi said. He said he was working with Turkey, Arab countries, the United States, Russia and western European countries to halt the fighting.
The long simmering tensions between Hamas militants and Israel escalated this week with dueling rocket fire and Israel’s assassination of Hamas’ military leader. Israel has called up thousands of reservists for a possible ground war into Gaza and yesterday activated an upgrade to Iron Dome — its sophisticated, U.S.-funded rocket-defense interception system — two months ahead of schedule.
The Israeli military said 160 rockets were launched into Israel yesterday while Israel carried out at least 300 airstrikes, destroying the headquarters of Hamas’ prime minister and bombarding a network of tunnels used to smuggle weapons from neighboring Egypt.
Chang said world leaders will be focused on how other countries in the region and beyond align in the conflict.
“When you have a bipolar structure as you did during the Cold War, it was clear which side everyone was on,” Chang said. “Now there are too many foreign policy actors getting involved and it becomes unmanageable because we don’t know who’s going to line up with whom. It makes for a much more dangerous world.”