"We are working to try to strengthen the ability of both parties to have to sit down across the table," Obama said...
Obama blamed internal politics both in Israel and the Palestinian territories for constraining peace diplomacy. He cited problems faced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who the president said "is making some effort to move a little bit further than his coalition wants to go."
Netanyahu's right-leaning government includes pro-settler parties strongly opposed to ceding occupied land to the Palestinians for a future state.
Obama said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "genuinely wants peace" but has to deal with Hamas, a militant group that refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist...
Saying Israelis and Palestinians both have "legitimate aspirations," Obama sought to reassert his administration's ability to act as an even-handed broker.
"Israel is one of our strongest allies," Obama said. "It's critical for us, and I will never waver from ensuring Israel's security."
But he quickly insisted, "The plight of the Palestinians is something that we have to pay attention to. It is not good for our security and for Israel's security if you have millions of individuals who feel hopeless."
But it started this way:
During President Obama's town hall this afternoon in Tampa, Florida, a young woman asked a pointed question about Israel and human rights that stirred up the crowd and prompted a long answer from Obama.
She asked the president:
Last night in your State of the Union address, you spoke of America's support for human rights. Then, why have we not condemned Israel and Egypt's human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian people and yet we continue to support financially with billions of dollars coming from our tax dollars?
That was a neat coup by the pro-Pal. student, or a planted question?
Her name is Leila: