Obama: Our expectations of Mideast progress were 'too high'

In 'Time' interview, US president says Israel took a long time to change policies and that PA's Abbas has "got Hamas looking over his shoulder."

January 21, 2010 19:37
1 minute read.
US President Barack Obama

obama 311.187. (photo credit: AP)

Getting the Israelis and Palestinians to agree to negotiate, or even to agree to the framework in which negotiations will take place, "is just really hard," US President Barack Obama said in an interview with Time magazine published Thursday, as the president was completing his first year in office.

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Obama admitted that the administration "overestimated our ability to persuade [both sides] to [negotiate] when their politics ran contrary to that. Both sides - the Israelis and the Palestinians - have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation," Obama told the magazine.

The president also chose to emphasize the Palestinians' angle, where Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has "got Hamas looking over his shoulder and, I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process."

Obama said that Israel, "after a lot of time," showed willingness to "make some modifications in their policies," but "still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures."

In the interview, which covered a vast range of topics from internal issues like health care to foreign policy regarding North Korea, Obama said that if he would have anticipated the issues early on, "we might not have raised expectations as high."

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