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Public Statements

Crisis In Gaza

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, when President Obama is sworn into office next week, he will inherit an extremely complex and challenging crisis in the Middle East. Since Israel commenced military operations in Gaza to defend its citizens against rocket attacks more than 1,000 have died in Gaza, many of them civilians, while 13 Israelis have died. In spite of this carnage, Hamas refuses to surrender and continues to fire rockets into Israel. No clear resolution is in sight.

As a practicing physician, I find this conflict heartbreaking. Israelis live in constant fear that a rocket attack will snuff out an innocent life. Families in Israel go to bed at night wondering if a rocket will slam into their home. At the same time, Palestinians have nowhere to run from a terrorist organization that uses its own civilians as human shields.

While we all mourn the loss of innocent life, the world must recognize that Hamas deliberately created a situation in which Israel was forced to respond as any sovereign nation would while under attack. Israel, and every nation, has the right to self-defense.

What makes Hamas's actions particularly abhorrent and barbaric is the fact that they are making decisions, I believe, based on a perverse political calculation. While publically condemning Israel, Hamas's leaders and sympathizers in Iran and elsewhere privately welcome the suffering of the Palestinian people as a political opportunity. Hamas knows better than anyone that virtually every area of the densely populated Gaza strip is a civilian area. In Gaza, refugees have no place to seek refuge. The terrible unintended consequences and loss of civilian life we've seen in Gaza is part of Hamas's design and goal.

The United States and the next administration can play an important role in preventing Hamas from achieving its goals. What many on both sides long for is not just the cessation of violence but a real, lasting and durable peace. Some believe this is impossible, but it is in the interest of all sides to work toward this goal.

I trust President-elect Obama will avoid the false choice between unapologetically defending Israel's security and creating hope and opportunity for people on both sides of the conflict who want the same degree of freedom, peace and opportunity for themselves and their children. As Israel's most important ally, the United States should never waver in our commitment to Israel's security. The strength of that assurance is itself one of our most important contributions in the region because it creates the security and stability that are a prerequisite for meaningful negotiations.

At the same time, we enhance security in the region by assuring Palestinians in Gaza with our words and actions that they are not forgotten and that we hear their calls for peace and an end to violence. I've delivered 4,000 babies and I grieve with the pregnant women in Gaza who are being turned away at hospitals because their own leaders have held their lives and the lives of their children in contempt. The next administration can legitimize and support those mothers' pleas for peace while condemning and marginalizing Hamas's tactics of terror.

I believe President-elect Obama has the judgment and temperament to not only maintain our vital support of Israel, but to also create hope in the region and help Palestinians embrace alternatives to Hamas's brand of violence and despair. He will have my prayers and support and I hope he can have the prayers and support of the American people as he confronts this difficult challenge.

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