US President George W. Bush strongly backed Israel's actions in Gaza in his final press conference Monday before leaving office next Tuesday.
He said that he hoped the current violence would conclude by the time his term ends, but said that a sustainable ceasefire was needed and that "the definition of a sustainable ceasefire is if they stop firing rockets at Israel... the choice is Hamas's to make."
Asked how he felt about Israel's reaction, he stressed that "Israel has a right to defend itself." He added that he would like to see Israel be "mindful" of innocent civilians, but that the country faced a serious challenge.
Later while defending America's standing in the world, he criticized the false promise of popularity based on adopting certain stances, as he said some in Europe do "by blaming every Middle East problem on Israel."
Bush pointed out that the Middle East conflict has been raging for many years when asked why his efforts to reach a peace agreement had failed, continuing that, "the choice is complicated by the fact that people are willing to murder to stop the course of freedom."
He concluded, "I know we have advanced the process."