President Barack Obama says he continues to work to achieve a negotiated solution to the crisis between Israel, and Hamas in Gaza.
Before the president arrived in Southeast Asia, White House officials said he was working the phones with leaders in the region in search of a solution to end Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.
During a news conference in the Thai capital, he was asked if an Israeli military ground operation into Gaza would constitute an escalation of the crisis.
The president summarized his message to leaders like President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
“My message to all of them was that Israel had every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory,” he said. “If that can be accomplished, without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that is preferable. That is not just preferable for the people of Gaza, it is also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza they are much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded.”
The president, and members of his foreign policy team, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who is with the president in Asia, are also talking with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers.
In his remarks in Bangkok, Obama said he wants to see what progress can be made in coming days.
The president expanded on what he says he told the Egyptian and Turkish leaders.
“Those who champion the cause of the Palestinians should recognize that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza, then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track that leads to a two-state solution is going to be pushed back way into the future,” said Obama.
Obama said if regional leaders are serious about wanting to resolve the situation and create a genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in his words, “it starts with no more missiles being fired into Israel’s territory” creating the space to deal with longstanding conflicts.