Obama: Ready on Mideast ‘from day one’

(JTA) — Barack Obama said "starting on day one" his administration would be "immediately engaged in the Middle East peace process."

Obama has received criticism for remaining mostly silent on the Gaza operation. During an appearance Sunday on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos, he explained this decision, saying that given the delicacy of the situation "the one area where the principle of one president at a time has to hold is when it comes to foreign policy."

Obama stood by his comments made last summer during a visit to Sderot: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

When Stephanopoulos asked if he would say the same thing today, Obama said, "I think that a basic principle of any country is that they’ve got to protect their citizens."

Obama offered some veiled criticism of the Bush administration’s work in the Middle East. 

"The reason it’s so important for the United States to be engaged and involved immediately, not waiting until the end of their term, is because working through the politics of this requires a third party that everybody has confidence, wants to see a fair and just outcome," he said.

Obama called Iran "one of our biggest challenges" and said that his administration was "going to have to take a new approach."

That approach, he said, is "that engagement is the place to start. That the international community is going to be taking cues from us in how we want to approach Iran."
 

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