President Barack Obama lamented on Wednesday that “too many Israelis” were ready to abandon Middle East peace efforts and urged them to reflect on the matter, saying the status quo with the Palestinians was unsustainable.
As part of a broader speech to the U.N. Assembly, Obama appeared to gently chide Israel against giving up on peace a week before he hosts Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House.
While Obama used his address primarily to rally support in the fight against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria, he also recommitted to the pursuit of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians despite what he called a “bleak” landscape. U.S.-brokered negotiations collapsed in April.
“The violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace,” Obama said. Then, departing from printed remarks made available to reporters beforehand, he added: “And that’s something worthy of reflection within Israel.”
“Because let’s be clear: the status quo…is not sustainable. We cannot afford to turn away from this effort — not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza,” Obama said.
Asked by Reuters to respond to Obama’s remarks, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor declined comment.
The White House gave no explanation for the call for Israeli “reflection” that Obama inserted into his speech. “That message is consistent with what we’ve said for a long time about the status quo being unsustainable,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.
While Obama in last year’s U.N. speech cited resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of the top priorities for the rest of his second term, he made no such assertion this time.