Obama defends Israel's right to defend itself but says preferable to avoid ground offensive

Obama: “Preferable” To Avoid Gaza Ground Incursion

Obama: “Preferable” To Avoid Gaza Ground Incursion

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Nov. 18 2012 10:50 AM

President Obama: “Preferable” To Avoid Gaza Ground Incursion

President Obama defended Israel's right to defend itself at a news conference in Bangkok Sunday

Photo by Jack Kurtz/Getty Images

President Obama said Sunday that while his administration is “fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself” he cautioned against escalation, saying that it would be “preferable” for Israel to meet its goals “without ramping up military activity in Gaza,” reports Reuters. In what amounted to his first public remarks about the violence in Gaza, Obama made it clear that any solution to the conflict must begin with “no missiles being fired into Israel’s territory”

"Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory," Obama said in Bangkok, at the start of a three-nation tour in Asia. But avoiding an escalation of the conflict wouldn’t just be preferable to Palestinians, but also “for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they're much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded.” Obama said he has been in regular contact with Egyptian and Turkish leaders, adding that “we're going to have to see what kind of progress we can make in the next 24, 36, 48 hours.”


Obama also defended his decision to go to Burma. "This is not an endorsement of the Burmese government," Obama said, according to the Associated Press. "This is an acknowledgement that there is a process underway inside that country that even a year and a half, two years ago, nobody foresaw." He added that the United States should not avoid getting its “hands dirty when there's an opportunity for us to encourage the better impulses inside a country.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.