President Barack Obama said that that if Hamas is serious about ending its current conflict with Israel, they must release an Israeli soldier captured Friday.
“It is very hard to put a cease-fire back together if Israel and the international community cannot feel confidence that Hamas won’t follow through,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “I want to make sure that they are listening. If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible.”
Obama administration officials earlier this week criticized Israel after the shelling of a United Nations schools in Gaza. Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire, but Hamas violated it Friday, killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting another, Israel said. Hamas, for its part, has denied abducting the soldier.
Obama said Kerry has worked hard and has “endured unfair criticism.”
“When we see John Kerry try to broker a cease-fire, we should support it,” Obama said. “We shouln’t be nitpicking.”
Touching on a number of topics, Obama also criticized Congress for not passing his request for $3.7 billion to deal with the flood of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children coming across the boarder.
Obama insisted that he and Republicans “were in 80 percent agreement.”
Instead, he said the Republican-controlled House wants to pass a separate border bill that he said he would veto.
“House Republicans are trying to pass a more extreme version of the bill that can’t pass the Senate and if it did, I’d veto it,” Obama said.
There have been several reports that Obama is considering an executive order that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who have not committed crimes. He wasn’t specific about that.
“Our efforts administratively so far have helped to slow the tide of child migrants trying to come to our country,” Obama said. “But without additional resources and help from Congress, we’re just not going to have the resources we need to fully solve the problem. That means while they’re out on vacation, I’m going to have to make some tough choices to meet the challenge, with or without Congress.”
Obama also boasted about economic growth, after reports that 200,000 jobs were added in July. He called it the best six-month streak since 1997.
“What we did worked, and the economy is better,” Obama said. “Six months of job growth hasn’t happened in 17 years. That shows persistence.”
Obama, who himself is taking a two-week vacation in August, criticized Congress for taking a five-week vacation without passing important legislation.
The president took a question as to whether the U.S. has lost global influence.
“People forget that America, as the most powerful country on Earth, still does not control every country around the world,” Obama said.
Obama said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday about the country’s arming of Russian separatists in Ukraine.
“I told him just as we will do what we say with sanctions, we will also do what we say in diplomacy if Russia does respect the sovereignty of Ukraine,” Obama said.
Regarding the Ebola outbreak in Africa, Obama said that proper measures are being taken for the gathering of African leaders in Washington next week. He said the outbreak has affected three country out of the 50 that will be represented.
“We feel confident that the procedures put in place are appropriate,” Obama said.