While CBS News has reported that President-elect Barack Obama has kept his finger on the pulse of erupting violence on the Gaza Strip, he has not yet spoken publically about the tenuous situation.
Transition officials say that Mr. Obama has received intelligence briefings and spoken to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush regarding Israel's bombing campaign. But the vacationing president-elect seems to be enjoying his last days away from the presidential hot seat, which seems to be burdened by an ever growing 'to-do' list.
Mr. Obama has not always stayed mum on issues affecting Israel and the Middle East, however. During his presidential campaign, many said he was plagued by a 'Jewish problem' and would have difficulty attracting Jewish voters, a critical Democratic demographic. Most of the fodder for this 'problem' was from guilt by association with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan and advisor Tony McPeak, whose comments on Israel have drawn criticism.
In June 2008, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg felt compelled to defend Obama to against an internet smear campaign. "There are plenty of emails floating around the Internet targeting Jewish voters and saying that Senator Obama is secretly a Muslim, and a radical one at that. Let's call these rumors what they are: lies," Bloomberg told the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. "They are cloaked in concern for Israel, but the real concern is about partisan politics. Israel is just being used as a pawn, which is not that surprising since some people are willing to stoop to any level to win an election."
Here is a look at what Obama has said about Israel. As you can see, he has expressed clear support for the country and defended his stance.
Obama's team spoke up about Gaza this weekend. On CBS News' Face the Nation Sunday, Senior Obama advisor David Axelrod told Chip Reid. his boss understands Israel's need to defend itself. "The president-elect was in Sderot last July, in southern Israel, a town that's taken the brunt of the Hamas attacks. And he said then that, when bombs are raining down on your citizens, there is an urge to respond and act and try and put an end to that," Axelrod said. "So, you know, that's what he said then, and I think that's what he believes."
Axelrod was quick to express Obama's commitment to the "special relationship" between the United States and America. Yet he noted that the president-elect's Middle East policy will incorporate multiple perspectives. "He's going to work closely with the Israelis. They're a great ally of ours, the most important ally in the region...But he will do so in a way that will promote the cause of peace, and work closely with the Israelis and the Palestinians on that --toward that objective."
While Mr. Obama has clearly stayed aware of the unfolding situation his team is quick to note that there is only one president, and that the changing of the guard won't come until January 21, 2009 .
"There's only one president who can speak for America at a time. And that president now is George Bush," Axelrod said on Face the Nation. "The president-elect was on the phone with Secretary Rice yesterday. He's monitoring the situation closely. But the Bush administration has to speak for America now. And it wouldn't be appropriate for me to opine on these matters."