Palestinians suffer because of their leadership, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said.

In the first debate Thursday night of the Democratic candidates for president, Obama was asked whether he stood by his remark earlier this year that nobody suffers more than the Palestinians.

"What I said is, nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region," Obama said on the MSNBC debate. "Israel has been one of our most important allies around the world, it's the only established democracy in the Middle East, it's the linchpin of much of our efforts in the Middle East, but the United States has to get engaged in this region and that's something this president has not done and that's something I intend to do."