Israeli raid could complicates Obama's push for Mid-East peace

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Washington, June 1 (ANI): US President Barack Obama's efforts to move ahead on Middle East peace negotiations and maintain ties with Israel have taken a hit and are likely to get more complicated after the Israeli commando attack on an aid flotilla that was headed for the Gaza Strip.

According to the New York Times, while the administration's public response was restrained, American officials expressed dismay in private over not only the flotilla raid, with its attendant deepening of Israel's isolation around the world, but also over the timing of the crisis, which comes just as long-delayed American-mediated indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians were getting under way.

Some foreign policy experts said the episode highlighted the difficulty of trying to negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority without taking into account an element often relegated to the background: how to deal with Hamas-ruled Gaza.

"This regrettable incident underscores that the international blockade of Gaza is not sustainable. It helps to stop Hamas attacks on Israelis, but seriously damages Israel's international reputation. Our responsibility to Israel is to help them find a way out of this situation," Martin S. Indyk, the former United States ambassador to Israel, said Monday.

The Obama administration officially supports the Gaza blockade, as the Bush administration did before it. But Obama, some aides say, has expressed strong frustration privately with the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

"We're not sure yet where things go from here," one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

No matter what happens, foreign policy experts who advise the administration agreed that if Obama wanted to move ahead with the peace talks, preceded by the so-called proximity or indirect talks, the flotilla raid demonstrates that he may have to tackle the thornier issue of the Gaza blockade.

For the Obama administration, the first order of business may be figuring out a way to hammer out a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas that will end the blockade of Gaza. (ANI)

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