President Barack Obama has admitted there is no possibility of securing a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians and doubts whether he will even be able to get them back round the negotiating table while he is in office.
Ahead of the Washington visit of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister next week, Mr Obama has made a “realistic assessment” that a peace deal will not happen before he leaves office in January 2017, US officials said.
“The president has reached the conclusion that, barring a major shift, the parties are not going to be in the position to negotiate a final status agreement,” said Rob Malley, Mr Obama’s senior Middle East adviser.
It marked the first time in two decades where the White House “faces a reality where the prospect of a negotiated two-state solution is not in the cards,” Mr Malley told journalists.
The admission comes at a time of soured relations between Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu, who clashed bitterly in the spring over nuclear negotiations with Iran.
In an open challenge to the nuclear deal, the Israeli leader accepted an invitation behind Mr Obama’s back to address the US Congress, where he criticised the White House’s efforts in the nuclear deal.
The Israeli prime minister also set out a hawkish approach to peace negotiations in March of last year, announcing on the eve of parliamentary elections that he would not allow for the creation of a Palestinian state were he re-elected.
Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party won a resounding victory against a strongly-tipped centre-Left opposition grouping, the Zionist Union, largely by appealing to supporters of Right-wing parties like the Jewish Home, which opposes a Palestinian state.
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AFP)
US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed one month later.
At the time Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said Mr Netanyahu’s comments had forced the White House to “re-evaluate” its strategy for achieving a two state solution.
But in the interceding months, there has been little evidence of any successful efforts to foster a new approach.
“We’ve tried many different approaches over the course of the administration,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication. “Direct negotiations, indirect negotiations, the U.S. putting out some principles. And again, at each juncture, ultimately the parties themselves did not take the sufficient steps forward to reach a negotiated two-state solution.”
The meeting on Monday, the first by the two leaders since the collapse of the talks, comes after a bloody month in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Eleven Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian attackers; whilst scores of Palestinians have died during clashes with the Israeli military.
Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel said that, even with a solution beyond reach, he believed Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu would use the meeting to discuss “what steps everybody can contribute to providing that atmosphere, obviously reducing the tensions and the violence that has been going on, and maintaining the viability of the two-state solution for the future”.