US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look out a window.
(photo credit: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY PETE SOUZA)
WASHINGTON – The White House has made the “realistic assessment” that a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians will not come to pass during the remainder of Barack Obama’s presidency, senior administration officials said on Thursday night.
Preparing to host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week, the president’s aides also cast doubt on the prospect of direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leadership. Instead, Obama will ask Netanyahu to contribute ideas for a path forward “in the absence of negotiations” to ensure the two-state solution remains viable.
Obama will be looking for “what ideas he is going to be putting forward,” Rob Malley, US National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East, told reporters, adding: “The prospect of a two-state solution is not in the cards for the time that’s remaining.”
Not since the Clinton administration has the White House made the assessment that time had run out in a president’s term to pursue negotiations, Malley said. But Obama remains committed to retaining a path toward that end, said his aides.
It has been “difficult to generate momentum on diplomacy” given the difficult situation on the ground, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told journalists.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work internally,” aimed at “maintaining the viability of the two-state solution,” Shapiro said.
Netanyahu will arrive in Washington on Sunday and meet with Obama at the White House on November 9. The session is their first since world powers brokered a nuclear deal with Iran over the objections of the Israeli government.
In addition to the Palestinian issue, officials said the two leaders will discuss how to “intensify” existing efforts to curb Iran’s malign influence across the Middle East. Israel hopes to negotiate a decadelong, $50 billion defense package.
Ben Rhodes, US deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told The Jerusalem Post that tension between the two governments over Iran amounted to an unavoidable policy disagreement – not a personal one – that both governments hope to put behind them.
Despite public spats between the two governments, Rhodes said the Obama administration has achieved progress with Israel on defense cooperation.
And it plans to build on that success next week, he added.
“This administration has repeatedly stood up against delegitimization of Israel,” Rhodes said.
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