(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.
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."