By Ben Cohen
The latest Israeli land grab of Palestinian land in the West Bank is a clear test for Obama. The move is of course completely illegal under international law, and a slap in the face to the Palestinians who have already lost much of the land designated to them after the creation of the state of Israel.
Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell has spoken out before against Israeli settlement expansion, and it will be interesting to see how he is positioned this time around. If Obama is serious about advancing a legitimate settlement between the warring factions, he needs to reign the Israelis in quickly.
While Israel likes to behave aggressively, (even lecturing the United States at times), it knows full well it can do nothing without American permission. Obama must set the tone now and firmly rebuke Israel for its behavior. The assault on Gaza was timed to coincide with the end of Bush's term as the Israelis knew an Obama Presidency would never have allowed such brutal aggression. It is testing the water with Obama to see how far it can go, and will only stop if they are set firm limits. Those limits are crucial if Obama wants to be seen as being in control, and will define his policy over the coming years. Let's hope he makes the right decision.