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Obama and Israel

If Obama wants to be a real friend to Israel, he has to let the Israeli government know its actions are not consequence-free.

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Since he is being bipartisan, the new president should take up where George Bush Sr. and James Baker left off almost two decades ago. Any Israeli spending on settlement building should be condemned in the UN, and matched by equivalent reductions in U.S. aid. He should also implement actual U.S. policy by reminding Israelis that American weaponry is intended for defensive purposes and that any used in attacks beyond the borders won't be replaced.

Finally, the president-elect should speak out now about the desirability of Israel abiding by UN Security Council Resolution 1860, which calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Israeli troop withdrawal, and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance. A word from Obama would give Israel the excuse it desperately needs to extricate itself from the hole it dug in Gaza, while redounding to the president-elect's credit globally.

Given the cast of mind of many leading Democrats, such a rethink of U.S.-Israel relations is sure to be controversial. But early and speedy action before Obama starts campaigning for reelection should produce results. And backing a durable peace would be the best way of supporting Israel in the end.

Ian Williams writes on the United Nations for AlterNet. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, the Nation and Salon. He is also the author of Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776 .

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