JERUSALEM (JTA) – President Obama in an interview on Arab television emphasized America’s ties to Israel and declined to put a time frame on creating a Palestinian state.
The U.S. president told the Al Arabiya Arab television network Monday that it was important to get involved in the Middle East right away. Obama, in his first interview with the Arab media since taking office Jan. 20, said he instructed Middle East envoy George Mitchell to "start by listening" during his Middle East visit this week.
Obama said Israel "will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel’s security is paramount."
Achieving peace is a regional issue, he said.
"I do think that it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan. These things are interrelated," the president said. "And what I’ve said, and I think [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton has expressed this in her confirmation, is that if we are looking at the region as a whole and communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest. Then I think that we can make significant progress."
Obama said he thought a Palestinian state was possible, but would not put a time frame on its establishment.
Obama criticized Islamic terrorists, then reached out to the Muslim world.
"In my inauguration speech, I spoke about you will be judged on what you’ve built, not what you’ve destroyed. And what they’ve been doing is destroying things. And over time, I think the Muslim world has recognized that that path is leading no place, except to more death and destruction," he said.
"Now my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries."