SEOUL, South Korea — Voicing pessimism about a prompt restart to Mideast peace talks, President Barack Obama said Friday that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have shown the political will to make tough decisions to advance negotiations.
Obama described a reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian Authority and the militant group Hamas as "unhelpful" and said it was "just one of a series of choices that both the Israelis and Palestinians have made that are not conductive to trying to resolve this crisis."
"Folks can posture, folks can cling to maximalist positions, but realistically there is one door and that is the two parties getting together and making some very difficult political compromises in order to secure the future of both Israelis and Palestinians for future generations," Obama said. "Do I expect that they will walk through that door next week, next month or even in the course of the next six months? No."
While he said the U.S. would continue to offer the parties "constructive approaches," he also conceded that "there may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause and both sides need to look at the alternatives."
Obama made his remarks during a news conference with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye, a day after Israel broke off Mideast peace talks in protest of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas agreement.
The burden of brokering the talks has largely been carried by Secretary of State John Kerry, who has devoted personal time and travel for months in hopes of keeping negotiations alive. But Obama has also stepped into the effort, personally prodding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abba last month in separate White House meetings to make the difficult choices needed to advance the talks.
"So far we have seen some movement on both sides to acknowledge that this is a crisis long-running that needs to be solved," Obama said. "What we haven't seen is frankly the kind of political will to actually make tough decisions. And that's been true on both sides."