Barack Obama offered a complex analysis of the conflict between Israel and Gaza, telling thousands of former aides that they were all “complicit to some degree” in the current bloodshed.
“I look at this, and I think back, ‘What could I have done during my presidency to move this forward, as hard as I tried?’” he said in an interview conducted by his former staffers for their podcast, Pod Save America . “But there’s a part of me that’s still saying, ‘Well, was there something else I could have done?’”
Mr. Obama entered the White House convinced he could be the president who would resolve the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. He left office after years of friction and mistrust with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who was frustrated by the president’s masterminding of the Iran nuclear deal and by his demands that Israel suspend new settlements.
In his comments on Friday, delivered at a gathering of his former staff in Chicago, Mr. Obama acknowledged the strong emotions the war had raised, saying that “this is century-old stuff that’s coming to the fore.” He blamed social media for amplifying the divisions and reducing a thorny international dispute to what he viewed as sloganeering.
Yet he urged his former aides to “take in the whole truth,” seemingly attempting to strike a balance between the killings on both sides.
“What Hamas did was horrific, and there’s no justification for it,” Mr. Obama said. “And what is also true is that the occupation and what’s happening to Palestinians is unbearable.”
He continued: “And what is also true is that there is a history of the Jewish people that may be dismissed unless your grandparents or your great-grandparents, or your uncle or your aunt tell you stories about the madness of antisemitism. And what is true is that there are people right now who are dying, who have nothing to do with what Hamas did.”
Still, Mr. Obama appeared to acknowledge the limits of his musings about bridging divides and embracing complexity.
“Even what I just said, which sounds very persuasive, still doesn’t answer the fact of, all right, how do we prevent kids from being killed today?” he said. “But the problem is that if you are dug in on that, well, the other side is dug in remembering the videos that Hamas took or what they did on the 7th, and they’re dug in, too, which means we will not stop those kids from dying.”