Absent more forceful US role, others make frantic bid to halt fighting.
With the Bush administration signaling a green light to Israeli military action in Gaza and President-elect Obama holding to a "one president at a time" silence, other powers are vying to fill the vacuum left by the absence of more forceful American diplomacy.
Those powers range from European and Arab leaders, who hope to broker a cease-fire and stave off a full-scale humanitarian crisis, to Iran, which aims to stoke anti-Israel and anti-US sentiments that Israel's actions in Gaza have ignited in the region.
Prospects for any progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord – and for an Israeli-Arab rapprochement – may hang in the balance. That explains both the frantic efforts at the United Nations to halt the fighting and Iran's preference to see the crisis deepen.
Unabated military action in coming days – or even weeks, Israeli officials say – is also likely to present Mr. Obama with a much grimmer situation in the Middle East than anticipated when he takes office. Whether he enters the Oval Office in two weeks to a raging crisis or to a renewed cease-fire will go a long way to determining how the new president is able to pursue his stated priority of addressing America's image in the Islamic world.
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