WASHINGTON -- The White House has assessed that a two-state solution between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is not likely to happen before President Barack Obama leaves office.
Although that determination comes as no surprise to those who have been observing the plummeting relations between Israelis and Palestinians, Obama has not yet publicly precluded the possibility of a peace agreement within his last year in office.
But during a Thursday evening conference call, White House Middle East Coordinator Rob Malley told reporters not to hold out for a major announcement. “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 remainder -- in the time that’s remaining,” he said.
“The president has reached that conclusion -- that right now, barring a major shift, the parties are not going to be in the position to negotiate a final status agreement,” Malley added.
The purpose of the conference call was to brief reporters on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to the White House. It will be the first time Netanyahu and Obama meet since the Israeli premier made a campaign promise in March to not allow for the creation of a Palestinian state if re-elected.
At the time, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Netanyahu’s comments forced the White House to “re-evaluate” its approach toward achieving a two-state solution. But there has been little evidence of a changed approach over the last eight months.
The U.S. has continued to quietly oppose intervention by the United Nations Security Council, where France has floated the idea of introducing a resolution that would outline parameters for a peace agreement.
The change, White House officials said Thursday, is a recognition of the shifting realities on the ground. The administration appears resigned to damage control -- making sure that the prospects for a two-state solution don’t disappear even if such an agreement is not possible in the near future.
“We’ve tried many different approaches over the course of the administration,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, during Thursday’s call. “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.”
Citing the need to rebuild trust, Earnest called on the Palestinian leadership to reject violence and incitement. When asked about the role Israeli settlements play in the conflict, Earnest said that continued settlement construction “complicates both the trust that is necessary to move in the direction of peace, and could very practically complicate the achievement of a viable Palestinian state.”