Observing that escalation of tension in the Middle East “benefits no one”, President Barack Obama has said the US will do everything it can to facilitate a return to the 2012 cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians.
“I believe further escalation benefits no one, least of all the Israeli and the Palestinian people. So we’re going to continue doing everything we can to facilitate a return to the 2012 cease-fire,” Obama told guests at the annual Iftaar hosted by him at the White House last evening.
Efforts towards a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant groups are underway to end the current round of violence, but no deal has been reached yet.
“Our goal has been and continues to be peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. I will say very clearly, no country can accept rocket fired indiscriminately at citizens. And so, we’ve been very clear that Israel has the right to defend itself against what I consider to be inexcusable attacks from Hamas,” Obama said.
“At the same time, on top of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that we’ve worked long and hard to alleviate, the death and injury of Palestinian civilians is a tragedy, which is why we’ve emphasized the need to protect civilians, regardless of who they are or where they live,” he said at the Iftaar, which was attended by eminent Muslim Americans and top foreign diplomats including Indian Ambassador to the US S Jaishankar.
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Commenting on reports that Egypt has made a ceasefire proposal, Obama said: “We are encouraged that Egypt has made a proposal to accomplish this goal, which we hope can restore the calm that we’ve been seeking. More broadly, however, the situation in Gaza reminds us again that the status quo is unsustainable and that the only path to true security is a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama has tried to forge a peace deal between Israelis and the Palestinians in his second term without much success.
He said the pictures being seen in Gaza and Israel are heart wrenching.
“People here in the US care deeply about what’s happening there, and I know there are strong views, as well as differences, about how we should move forward, which is part of American democracy. We welcome that debate. That makes us stronger,” he said.
This was the sixth Iftar that Obama hosted, continuing the tradition of hosting Iftars and Eid celebrations that began annually under the former president Bill Clinton’s regime and was continued by President George W Bush.