The watch has begun

President-elect Obama may be “on vacation”, but world crises don’t take a holiday. In fact, some take advantage of them.

Early reporting on the outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas extremists in Palestine suggested the timing was strategic, when the world was paying more attention to Christmas and Hanukah than political tensions. It may have caught some of the world’s media off guard - certainly the American press, which is barely keeping up with the larger events of this crucial battle and not covering the details of it at all. But the incoming president is watching carefully.

Obama spoke with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday about the violence in Gaza, two transition aides told CNN.

Asked whether Obama takes on a passive role when talking to Rice, Axelrod said, “I would hardly describe him as passive.”

“I think they have a good working relationship. And there’s a — I think the calls are largely in the area of fact-finding for him,” he said.

He’s not finding many facts in the media (not to belabor the point, but they are woefully inadequate in their coverage). And some international press have pointed out that in this uprising, the new American president(-elect) is being tested. Which is why David Axelrod was on the Sunday morning news shows, calibrating expectations.

Obama has pledged to make Middle East peace a priority from the beginning of his presidency. Arab states are calling for a more even-handed approach than what they consider the pro-Israel tilt of the Bush administration, but Israel is expecting Obama to stay true to the pro-Israel posture he showed during the campaign.

Asked if he anticipates that the Obama administration would be just as supportive of Israel as the Bush administration has been, Axelrod said Obama “recognizes the special relationship between United States and Israel.”

Especially with Rahm Israel Emanuel as his Chief of Staff.


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