President Obama has concluded that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians cannot be reached during the remainder of his time in office, White House officials said Thursday.
The Washington Post quoted Rob Malley, the National Security Council's senior director for the Middle East, as saying that Obama "faces the reality" that a solution to the ongoing conflict "is not in the cards for the remainder" of his term of office.
Malley made the disclosure during a conference call with reporters ahead of next week's visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It will be the first meeting between Obama and Netanyahu since the U.S. and five other world powers reached an agreement with Iran about that country's nuclear program this past July.
While the nuclear accord is expected to be a major focus of the leaders' talks, they'll also discuss a fresh wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence that began two months ago at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site and spread across Israel and into the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Officials said Obama and Netanyahu would discuss steps to prevent confrontations between the parties in the absence of peace agreement. Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, told reporters that Obama will "want to hear what [Netanyahu's] views are for how the Israeli government can take steps" and "make clear that there is an aspiration" to resolve the conflict.
The Post reported that Secretary of State John Kerry and other White House officials are particularly concerned with the issue of Israeli settlements, which one source described to the paper as "creeping annexation."
The meeting between the two heads of state is also the first since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would no longer consider the PA to be bound by the 1993 Oslo accords. Abbas charged that Israel had failed to live up to the deal’s conditions. Netanyahu, for his part, has repeatedly accused Abbas of inciting violence against Israelis in recent months.
Obama and Netanyahu have long had a tense relationship, which was further strained by the U.S. president's pursuit of the nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu sees Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon as an existential threat to Israel and has argued that the agreement leaves Tehran within reach of a bomb.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.