US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look out a window before their lunch at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013.. (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 put forward 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 going to be putting forward,” Rob Malley, 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, Malley said, has the White House made the assessment that time had run out in a president’s term to pursue negotiations. But Obama remains committed to retaining a path toward that end, said his aides.

Also speaking with journalists, US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said it has been “difficult to generate momentum on diplomacy” given the difficult situation on the ground.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work internally,” Shapiro said, aimed at “maintaining the viability of the two-state solution.”

Netanyahu will arrive in Washington on Sunday and sit with Obama at the White House on November 9. The meeting is their first since world powers successfully brokered a nuclear deal with Iran over the objections of the Israeli government.

As well as 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 decade-long $50 billion defense package.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor 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 in the past.

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 continued.

“This administration has repeatedly stood up against delegitimization of Israel,” Rhodes added.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post