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Gaza war – Early test for Obama?
The slow pace of talks between Hamas and Egyptian mediators on Cairo’s proposal for a Gaza ceasefire is raising speculation in Israel over whether the Islamist group is playing for time, hoping to get a better deal once Barack Obama is sworn in as U.S. president on Tuesday.
Israel also has been in no rush to call off the offensive it began on Dec. 27 with the declared aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks on its southern towns.
It now has only less than a week left to put into motion a threatened third phase of the campaign, an all-out push into densely populated Gaza cities, while its strong ally, President George W. Bush, is still in office.
The bloodshed has opened faultlines in the map of Middle East diplomacy, with the Bush administration in its final week standing behind Israel, Europe pressing Israel to call off its attacks and Arab leaders speaking out against the Jewish state.
For Israel, too, waiting for Obama — who has promised to make Israeli-Palestinian peace an early priority for his administration — could have its advantages.
The way Obama, who last July visited the southern Israeli town of Sderot, a frequent target of Hamas rockets, deals with the Gaza war could set the tone early for his Middle East policy and provide an initial answer to the question being asked in Israel and the Arab world: To what extent, if any, will he soften Bush’s pro-Israeli stance?