Former US President Barack Obama has expressed his support for Israel’s right to defend itself against violence by Hamas, but he has also cautioned against ignoring the human cost of such actions. In an essay published on Medium, Obama endorsed President Joe Biden’s call to support Israel in dismantling Hamas’s military capabilities and rescuing the hostages taken in the recent attack. However, he emphasized the importance of abiding by international law and minimizing civilian casualties.
Obama pointed out that the harsh treatment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza could have counterproductive consequences. He argued that the crackdown on Gaza could further harden Palestinian attitudes, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long-term efforts to achieve peace. He highlighted the significant number of Palestinians, including children, who have already been killed and displaced. Obama underlined that considering the human cost is not only morally just but also vital for building alliances and shaping international opinion, which are critical for Israel’s long-term security.
To achieve lasting peace and security, Obama advised both the United States and Israel to engage with Palestinian leaders and organizations that recognize Israel’s right to exist. He emphasized the need to articulate a viable pathway for Palestinian statehood, as it is the best and perhaps the only way to fulfill the aspirations of Israeli and Palestinian families.
Additionally, Obama urged both countries to promote their best values, rather than their worst fears. He emphasized the importance of opposing anti-Semitism in all its forms, as well as anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, or anti-Palestinian sentiment. Obama stressed the need to guard against dehumanizing language towards the people of Gaza and to avoid downplaying Palestinian suffering in Gaza or the West Bank.
Meanwhile, in response to Hamas’s recent attack, Israel has declared war on the group and implemented a total blockade on Gaza. Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has stated that there is no room for a balanced approach and that Hamas must be wiped out from the world. However, some in West Jerusalem have expressed concerns about the consequences of such actions.
Israel’s envoy to the UN has called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to resign for suggesting that the Hamas attack did not happen in a vacuum and may be related to years of occupation by Israel.
In conclusion, Obama’s endorsement of Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas violence comes with a caution against ignoring the human cost. He highlights the potential negative consequences of a harsh crackdown on Palestinian civilians and emphasizes the importance of abiding by international law and minimizing civilian casualties. Obama also calls for efforts to promote peace, engage with Palestinian leaders, and articulate a viable pathway for Palestinian statehood.