President Barack Obama pledged new realism in ties with Israel on the eve of a high-profile Middle East trip, warning the Jewish state of "profoundly negative" trends in the region.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Obama vowed to sustain close ties with Israel but said the status quo in the region was "unsustainable," and put the interests of both countries at risk.
"Part of being a good friend is being honest," Obama told the US radio broadcaster, continuing his recent tougher tone toward Israel.
"I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also US interests," Obama said.
"That's part of a new dialogue that I'd like to see encouraged in the region."
Obama's comments come as he prepares to embark late Tuesday on a visit to the Middle East, where he is scheduled on Thursday to make a high-profile speech at a university in the Egyptian capital Cairo.
'Status quo unsustainable'
Speaking to NPR, Obama argued it is in Israel's best interests to make peace.
"I believe that strategically, the status quo is unsustainable when it comes to Israel's security," Obama said.
"Over time, in the absence of peace with Palestinians, Israel will continue to be threatened militarily and will have enormous problems on its borders."
In another overture to the Muslim world, Obama on Monday told the BBC that the United States - so often accused of being insensitive to cultural differences in the region - could not impose its values on other countries.
"The danger I think is when the United States or any country thinks that we can simply impose these values on another country with a different history and a different culture," the president told the broadcaster.