In just twelve days' time Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States of America. Much of the world expects big changes in foreign policy. Those expectations will meet their first test with the incoming administration's handling of the Gaza crisis. Up until now Mr Obama has said that there is only one President and one Secretary of State at a time and it is not for him to send out different messages from the current administration. Al-Jazeera has criticised this as a "deafening silence". The silence ends after Obama's Inauguration, however. This is what he said on Tuesday (our emphasis):
Many supporters of Israel are hopeful that American policy will remain broadly supportive. Visiting Sderot last July - an Israeli town that is particularly vulnerable to Hamas' rocket attacks - Obama said that "no country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens." He went on top say that it would be "very hard to negotiate" with Hamas because it does not recognize Israel's right to exist, has a record of terrorist activity and has been supplied with weapons from other nations hostile to Israel.
In the speech below - again from last year (June) - he promised an audience of American Jews that he "would never compromise when it comes to Israel's security":
There will be some change, however, from the Bush administration. Obama has already promised to engage more directly with problem states such as Iran and one of the people - Richard Haass - tipped to be part of his Middle East team advocated low level contact with Hamas in an article written before the current outbreak of hostilities. Don't be surprised, however, if policy is more notable for continuity than change.