Obama on the Record: Turkey Town Hall

I wasn’t at Davos so I don’t want to offer an opinion about how he responded and what prompted his reaction. I will say this — that I believe that peace in the Middle East is possible. I think it will be based on two states, side by side: a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. I think in order to achieve that, both sides are going to have to make compromises.

I think we have a sense of what those compromises should be and will be. Now what we need is political will and courage on the part of leadership. And it is not the United States’ role or Turkey’s role to tell people what they have to do, but we can be good friends in encouraging them to move the dialogue forward.

I have to believe that the mothers of Palestinians and the mothers of Israelis hope the same thing for their children. They want them not to be vulnerable to violence. They don’t want, when their child gets on a bus, to worry that that bus might explode. They don’t want their child to have to suffer indignities because of who they are. And so sometimes I think that if you just put the mothers in charge for a while, that things would get resolved.

And it’s that spirit of thinking about the future and not the past that I just talked about earlier that I think could help advance the peace process, because if you look at the situation there, over time I don’t believe it’s sustainable.

It’s not sustainable for Israel’s security because as populations grow around them, if there is more and more antagonism towards Israel, over time that will make Israel less secure.

It’s not sustainable for the Palestinians because increasingly their economies are unable to produce the jobs and the goods and the income for people’s basic quality of life.

So we know that path is a dead end, and we’ve got to move in a new direction. But it’s going to be hard. A lot of mistrust has been built up, a lot of anger, a lot of hatred. And unwinding that hatred requires patience. But it has been done. You know, think about — my Special Envoy to the Middle East is a gentleman named George Mitchell, who was a senator in the United States and then became the Special Envoy for the United States in Northern Ireland. And the Protestants and the Catholics in Northern Ireland had been fighting for hundreds of years, and as recently as 20 years ago or 30 years ago, the antagonism, the hatred, was a fierce as any sectarian battle in the world.

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