Reporter Confronts Obama About His Mideast Failures
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Mr. President, I want to follow up a little bit on the peace process. You began your term, your first term, big fanfare, Cairo speech, to talk to the Muslim world, the decision to have a Middle East envoy early, you said you weren’t going to let this slip to your second term. We’re in your second term with the Middle East peace process. What went wrong? Why are we further away from a two-state solution? I know you want to talk more about this tomorrow, but I am curious, what do you believe went wrong? Did you push Israel too hard? What do you wish you would have done differently?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: So you had to get a polling question in there at the end, huh? Chuck, I mean, you’re just incorrigible. Well, look, the opening premise to your question was that having failed to achieve peace in the Middle East, in my first term, that I must have screwed up somehow. And I will tell you, I hope I’m a better president now than when I first came into office, but my commitment was not to achieve a peace deal in my first year, or in my second year or my third year, that would have been nice.
What I said was, I was not going to wait to start on the issue until my second term because I thought it was too important. And that’s exactly what I did. I am absolutely sure that there are a host of things that I could have done that would have been more deft and, you know, would have created better optics. But ultimately, this is a really hard problem.
It has been lingering for over six decades. And the parties involved have, you know, some profound interests that you can’t spin, you can’t smooth over, and it is a hard slog to work through all of these issues. I will add that both parties also have politics, just like we do back home. There are a whole bunch of things I would like to do in the United States that I didn’t get done in my first term. And I’m sure I could have been more deft there as well, but some of it is just because it is hard. And people disagree. And if takes, I think, a confluence of both good, diplomatic work, but also timing, serendipity, things falling into place at the right time, the right players feeling that this is the moment to seize it. And my goal here is just to make sure that the United States is a positive force in trying to create those opportunities as frequently as possible and to be as clear as possible as to why we think that this is an important priority.