U.S. President Barack Obama focused primarily on the state of the economy Tuesday evening in a televised news conference except for a single foreign policy issue: the establishment of a Palestinian Authority state within Israel’s current borders.
None of the reporters raised any other foreign policy issues. Los Angeles Times blogger Steve Padilla noted, “Iraq, for one. Never came up. Isn't there a war going on? Afghanistan didn't come up either, though one question about Israel slipped in.”
In response to a question from one of 13 reporters, President Obama said that he will not settle for the “status quo” in advancing the Arab cause but that patience is needed. Speaking before the Labor party approved an agreement to join a government led by Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, he noted that the creation of a new Arab country “will not be easier" than it was in previous Israeli administrations.
“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,” the president said. “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.”
The president added that he will follow a "philosophy of persistence” in order to achieve results.
United States Middle East envoy George C. Mitchell, who is directly under the supervision of the president and not the State Department, is scheduled to return to the region next month to try to advance talks.
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has warned that there will not be “serious negotiations without a complete halt to settlement expansion in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories.” He insisted that Netanyahu, who previously has refused to state that he accepts a “two-state solution,” must openly declare his support for a new PA state.