Obama on the Record: News Conference on the Economy

Now, I am glad to see progress is being made in adult stem cells. And if the science determines that we can completely avoid a set of ethical questions or political disputes, then that’s great. I have — I have no investment in causing controversy. I’m happy to avoid it, if that’s where the science leads us. But what I don’t want to do is predetermine this based on a very rigid, ideological approach, and that’s what I think is reflected in the executive order that I signed.

Q I meant to ask a follow-up, though. Do you think that scientific consensus is enough to tell us what we can and cannot do?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I think there’s always an ethical and a moral element that has to be — be a part of this. And so as I said, I don’t take decisions like this lightly. They’re ones that I take seriously. And I respect people who have different opinions on this issue. But I think that this was the right thing to do and the ethical thing to do. And as I said before, my hope is, is that we can find a mechanism ultimately to cure these diseases in a way that gains 100 percent consensus. And we certainly haven’t achieved that yet, but I think on balance this was the right step to take.

Stephen Collinson, AFP.

Q Mr. President, you came into office pledging to work for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. How realistic do you think those hopes are now, given the likelihood of a Prime Minister who’s not fully signed up to a two-state solution and a Foreign Minister who has been accused of insulting Arabs?

THE PRESIDENT: It’s not easier than it was, but I think it’s just as necessary. We don’t yet know what the Israeli government is going to look like and we don’t yet know what the future shape of Palestinian leadership is going to be comprised of. What we do know is this: that the status quo is unsustainable; that it is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in their own states with peace and security.

And by assigning George Mitchell the task of working as Special Envoy, what we’ve signaled is that we’re going to be serious from day one in trying to move the parties in a direction that acknowledges that reality. How effective these negotiations may be, I think we’re going to have to wait and see. But, you know, we were here for St. Patrick’s Day and you’ll recall that we had what had been previously sworn enemies celebrating here in this very room — you know, leaders from the two sides in Northern Ireland that, you know, a couple of decades ago or even a decade ago, people would have said could never achieve peace. And here they were, jointly appearing and talking about their commitment even in the face of violent provocation. And what that tells me is that if you stick to it, if you are persistent, then — then these problems can be dealt with.

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