We gave Obama credit for his initial reaction to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, namely that Israel “has the right to defend itself” against attack and that the Israelis will make their own decisions about their “military tactics and operations.” We recognized, however, that Obama would likely back away from this line if the conflict dragged on for an extended period of time.
As it turned out, Obama reversed himself almost immediately. The Washington Post says as much in this report called “With Hillary Clinton’s dash to Middle East, Obama signals a shift in his approach.”
Stating the obvious, the Post observes:
Clinton’s peacemaking trip is Obama’s clearest signal yet to Israel that it should begin to pull back its campaign against militants in the Gaza Strip. The administration knows that with Clinton on the ground trying to resolve the crisis, it will be harder for Netanyahu to make good on his threat to invade Gaza.
Obama’s real position, then, is that he will attempt to dictate the tactics and operations through which Israel exercises the right to defend itself. And Obama’s efforts to dictate constitute a constraint on Israel’s right to defend itself.
But if, due to American constaints, things go badly for Israel, Obama can always have Candy Crowley read his original expansive but meaningless statement of support.