The White House says it has reached the conclusion that it is unlikely to convince Israelis and Palestinians to reach a two-state solution before President Barack Obama leaves office in 14 months.
The blunt assessment for the possibility of reaching a peace agreement comes as Obama prepares to meet Monday at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, months after talks at finding a peace solution brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry broke down and as violence between the two sides has recently intensified.
On a conference call with reporters to discuss Netanyahu’s visit, administration officials said they do not expect a major breakthrough.
“This is really the first time since the first term of the Clinton administration where we have an administration that faces a reality where the prospect of a negotiated two-state solution is not in the cards for the time that’s remaining," said Rob Malley, National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf Region. “That was not the case until now.”
He said Obama has reached the conclusion that “barring a major shift, the parties are not going to be in a position to negotiate a final status agreement.” But he said the U.S. is still engaged in steps to prevent violence and improve conditions.
The administration remains committed to the prospect of a “two states for two people” solution as the only way to fully resolve the conflict, officials said.
But it does not “see a clear pathway right now to the type of negotiations that could produce a two-state solution, as much as we would like that to be the case,” deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said. He argued that that the administration has tried but that “the parties themselves did not take the steps.”
He said the administration will continue to look at ways to “build back some degree of trust” behind the two sides.
Netanayhu’s visit comes as he and Obama seek to repair the unprecedented damage to U.S.-Israeli relations brought on by the prime minister’s offensive to derail the Iran nuclear deal.
The White House announced the visit in September, a day after Senate Democrats effectively ended Republican attempts to kill the nuclear accord in a humiliating diplomatic defeat for Netanyahu, who had led denunciations of Obama’s foremost foreign policy priority as a disaster that would bolster Iran’s power and allow it to secretly develop a nuclear arsenal that would be used to target Israel.
White House officials said the Iran deal would be a major topic of conversation, along with the crisis in Syria.
Rhodes said he didn’t expect Obama would raise the revelations that Netanyahu’s nominee for public diplomacy chief had suggested Obama was anti-Semitic and had derided Secretary of State John Kerry in Facebook postings.
“It’s really a matter for the Israeli government to explain their own appointments,” Rhodes said, adding Obama expects a “very substantive agenda” and that his “record speaks for itself” when it comes to support for Israel and its security.