Obama Wades Into Israeli Conflict, Counsels Restraint — On Both Sides

Former President Barack Obama on Monday added his voice to the global clamor surrounding Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel ― and Israel’s unyielding response.

In a written statement on Medium, Obama endorsed the actions of President Joe Biden while calling for a more restrained approach, both for ethical reasons and because doing so, he argued, ultimately bolsters Israel’s long-term security.

Biden has repeatedly and staunchly defended Israel’s right to defend itself, a position Obama reaffirmed Monday as he called on Israel to uphold international law and minimize civilian death and suffering.

And while Obama applauded the recent Israeli decision to allow humanitarian relief trucks into Gaza, he plainly sees the move as insufficient. He cautions:

“The Israeli government’s decision to cut off food, water and electricity to a captive civilian population threatens not only to worsen a growing humanitarian crisis; it could further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s [enemies], and undermine long term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.”

Obama also called on leaders in the region to recommit to a two-state solution, acknowledging that both Palestinian and Israeli leaders have, at various points in the past, rebuffed meaningful progress for the purpose of scoring short-term political points.

“Israel has every right to exist,” Obama writes, while assailing antisemitism. “The Jewish people have claim to a secure homeland where they have ancient historical roots.”

Yet so, too, do the Palestinians, he notes, many of whom “were not only displaced when Israel was formed but continue to be forcibly displaced by a settler movement that too often has received tacit or explicit support from the Israeli government.”

The former president closed with a call for peace:

We should choose not to always assume the worst in those with whom we disagree. In an age of constant rancor, trolling and misinformation on social media, at a time when so many politicians and attention seekers see an advantage in shedding heat rather than light, it may be unrealistic to expect respectful dialogue on any issue — much less on an issue with such high stakes and after so much blood has been spilled. But if we care about keeping open the possibility of peace, security and dignity for future generations of Israeli and Palestinian children — as well as for our own children — then it falls upon all of us to at least make the effort to model, in our own words and actions, the kind of world we want them to inherit.