President Obama has concluded that a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is beyond reach during his presidency and will press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take steps to preserve the mere possibility of a two-state solution, senior administration officials said Thursday.
The issue has taken on greater importance with the recent wave of stabbings carried out by Palestinians against Israelis, senior administration members said during a conference call with reporters about Netanyahu's visit next week.
They said that the administration has become "realistic" that there might not even be negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials before Obama leaves office. In September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said his government would no longer consider itself bound by the Oslo peace agreements in effect for two decades, charging that Israel had failed to live up to its obligations.
Rob Malley, the National Security Council's senior director for the Middle East, said that for the first time in two decades, an American administration "faces the reality" that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "is not in the cards for the remainder" of a presidency. That, he said, has "led to a reassessment not only of what we can do but of what the parties can do."
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, said, "From the prime minister, we'll want to hear what his views are for how the Israeli government can take steps" to build confidence and "to make clear that there is an aspiration" for a two-state solution, which Rhodes said was the only way forward.