Monday, January 5, 2009

Obama is Losing a Battle He Doesn't Even Know He Is In - Simon Tisdall

The president-elect's silence on the Gaza crisis is undermining his reputation in the Middle East

....On the campaign trail, Obama (like Clinton) was broadly supportive of Israel and specifically condemnatory of Hamas. But at the same time, he held out the prospect of radical change in western relations with Muslims everywhere, promising to make a definitive policy speech in a "major Islamic forum" within 100 days of taking office.

"I will make clear that we are not at war with Islam, that we will stand with those who are willing to stand up for their future, and that we need their effort to defeat the prophets of hate and violence," he said.

As the Gaza casualty headcount goes up and Obama keeps his head down, those sentiments are beginning to sound a little hollow. The danger is that when he finally peers over the parapet on January 21, the battle of perceptions may already be half-lost.

Simon Tisdall is an assistant editor of
The Guardian and a foreign affairs columnist. He was The Observer's foreign editor from 1996-98.

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