Obama: Israel, Palestinians in need of 'pause' in talks

US president says both Israeli and Palestinian leaders unwilling to "make hard choices"; Israeli finance minister vows gov't "will not negotiate with Hamas."

Obama hosts Abbas at the White House, March 17, 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Obama hosts Abbas at the White House, March 17, 2014
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama said on Friday that Israel and the Palestinians may be in need of a "pause" in their negotiations.
Speaking to the press while on a tour of Asia, the president said that Mideast peace has proven elusive due to the unwillingness of leaders in the region to make "hard choices."
Obama said on Friday it was still in the interest of Israel and the Palestinians to seek peace.
Israel on Thursday suspended US-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians in response to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' unexpected unity pact with the rival Islamist Hamas group.
The negotiations had appeared to be heading nowhere even before Wednesday's reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian groups plunged them deeper into crisis.
The United States had been struggling to extend the talks beyond an original April 29 deadline for a peace accord.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid told a business conference in Rishon Letzion on Friday that "we are making constant efforts - and it's not always easy - to move the negotiations forward so that we can separate from the Palestinians."
"Suddenly we see Abu Mazen (Abbas' nom de guerre) make agreements with Hamas, a jihadist terror organization that is sworn to kill Jews," he said. "We will not negotiate with Hamas either directly or indirectly."