White House Frets Over Gaza Fighting

Administration pressuring Israel to end attacks
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 31, 2008 2:45 AM CST
A woman shouts anti-Israeli slogans as protesters carry pictures of President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at a demonstration in Lebanon Monday.   (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
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(Newser) – A deeply worried Bush administration is privately pushing Israel to settle on a Gaza exit strategy, despite the White House's public support of the offensive, insiders tell the Los Angeles Times. Amid rising international pressure to end the fighting, administration officials fear that rather than crushing Hamas, Israel's assault could increase support for Hamas in the same way that the 2006 Lebanon conflict boosted Hezbollah.

"Hamas was in a bind" before the offensive, said one Arab diplomat. "Their popularity was declining. Now they could be the winner." Initially, the White House stressed support for Israel as the conflict developed while the State Department urged a restoration of the old ceasefire. Now, with concern growing that the conflict is sapping support from Mahmoud Abbas and US allies in the region, both are calling for a ceasefire.