United States President Barack Obama said Monday night that envoy George Mitchell is visiting the Middle East to listen and learn what are the various positions. Interviewed by al-Arabiya television, Obama said "All too often the United States starts by dictating -- in the past on some of these issues -- and we don't always know all the factors that are involved. So let's listen. He's going to be speaking to all the major parties involved. And he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response. Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them." State Department spokesman Robert Wood said that Mitchell will not be speaking to Hamas on this trip, although he will visit Gaza.
Obama added, "Now, Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount. But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side."