Obama promises to ‘hit the ground running’ on Gaza

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Barack Obama said he will have "plenty to say" on the Gaza crisis in two weeks and will "hit the ground running" on brokering Middle East peace.

The president-elect repeated his earlier refusals to weigh in on the war Israel is waging against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, saying that foreign policy remains the prerogative of the sitting president.

"When it comes to international affairs, other countries are looking to see who speaks for America," Obama said.

However, he said for the first time that he would deal with the issue as soon as he assumed the presidency on Jan. 20.

"Starting at the beginning of our administration, we are going to engage effectively and consistently in trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East," he said. "So on Jan. 20th, you will be hearing directly from me in my opinions on this issue. Until then, my job is to monitor the situation and put together the best possible national security team so that we hit the ground running once we are responsible for national security issues."

Obama said he was paying close attention to the civilian casualties on both sides.

"The loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern to me," he said. "And after Jan. 20th, I’m going to have plenty to say about the issue."

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