White House: Israel Has Right To Defend Itself

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 17 2012 2:08 PM

White House Insists Israel Has Right To Defend Itself, Decide How To Respond to Hamas Rockets

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A picture taken from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows a rocket being launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Saturday

Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

The White House on Saturday unequivocally put its support behind Israel, although whether that would extend to a ground assault remains unclear. While President Obama has insisted that a calming of tensions would be preferable, Hamas needs to stop firing rockets into Israel first. The latest round of exchanged fire began Wednesday when Israel assassinated Hamas’ military commander. Yet for the United States that really wasn’t the driving force for the latest conflict.

The United States believes “the precipitating factor for the conflict was the rocket fire coming out of Gaza," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters during the president's flight to Asia, reports the Associated Press. "We believe Israel has a right to defend itself, and they'll make their own decisions about the tactics they use in that regard."

The Obama administration also appears to sympathize with Israel’s claim that this is hardly a new phenomenon. "These rockets have been fired into Israeli civilian areas and territory for some time now,” added Rhodes. “So Israelis have endured far too much of a threat from these rockets for far too long, and that is what led the Israelis to take the action that they did in Gaza.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.