WASHINGTON (January 27, 2009)—President Barack Obama sat down for his first formal television interview as president Monday with an Arabic cable television network.
The president told al-Arabiya TV when it comes to matters in the Middle East "all too often, the United States starts by dictating."
Obama said he felt it important to "get engaged right away" in the Mideast and had directed Mitchell to talk to "all the major parties involved."
The interview was recorded in an effort to advance envoy to the Middle East, former Sen. George J. Mitchell’s eight-day trip to the region and elsewhere.
The president also reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel as an ally, and to its right to defend itself.
Obama however suggested that Israel has hard choices to make and that his administration would press harder for it to do so.
"We cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them. They're going to have to make some decisions, Obama said.
“I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people," the president continued.
Obama stopped short of giving a timetable, but he said he is certain progress can be made.
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