US President Barack Obama acknowledged that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is an accomplishment that has eluded his presidency, and will remain elusive until he leaves office.
“This is not something I was able to get done,” Obama said on Wednesday during a visit to Argentina. “I am not that hopeful that it’s going to happen in the next nine months. It’s been 60 years; it’s not going to happen in the next nine months.”
In November, the president’s top national security advisers admitted that peace was “not in the cards for the time that’s remaining” in Obama’s second term, and said the administration’s new priority was to ensure that a two-state solution remains viable under his successor.
“There’s been talk about a one-state solution or sort of a divided government. It’s hard for me to envision that being stable, there’s such deep distrust between the two peoples right now,” Obama continued on Wednesday. “And the neighborhood is in such a mess that I continue to believe that a two-state solution is the best way. Now, over time that could evolve.”
But within hours of the president’s comments, US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking from Moscow alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said the prospects for peace would be a topic of conversation between the two diplomats.
The goal of their meeting, Kerry told reporters, was to “further define and chart the road ahead so that we can bring this conflict in Syria to a close as fast as possible, and also so that we can find a way to cooperate on the other challenges of the region – Yemen, Libya, Middle East peace” – all challenges marked with “urgency,” he said.
US officials tell The Jerusalem Post there is a general gap in interest between Obama and Kerry on whether to proceed with any process at all related to Israeli-Palestinian peace, with Kerry hoping to solidify gains and marginalize the costs of a continuing status quo, while Obama sees only counterproductive or controversial options before him.
While administration officials have sent out a trial balloon to test public reaction to US support for a non-binding UN Security Council resolution endorsing the two-state solution, the proposal has been widely rejected by both Democrats and Republicans – including explicitly by Hillary Clinton, front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination and the president’s former secretary of state.
“Number one, I don’t think it works,” Clinton told CNN on Monday night.
Meanwhile, the UN’s Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov, in his monthly briefing to the Security Council, said “the time has come to ring the alarm bells that the two-state solution is slipping from our fingers, that it is disappearing as the realities on the ground – driven by the ongoing settlement activities and confiscation of Palestinian land, as well as the continued lack of genuine Palestinian unity – make the prospect of a viable and independent Palestinian state less possible and less likely.”
Six months into the latest round of Palestinian violence, Mladenov said it was time for the international community to send a clear message to both sides.
“To the Palestinian people we need say very clearly – stabbing someone in the street will not bring about a Palestinian state. Nor will praising and glorifying violence in the media.
Those radicals determined to poison the minds of Palestinian youth must recognize their central role in the slow evisceration of the dream of Palestinian statehood,” he said.
And Israel, he said, “should understand that building more walls, administrative detentions, punitive demolitions and movement restrictions, all breed anger among people who feel they are being collectively humiliated, punished and discriminated against.
Heavy-handed responses play into the hands of extremists, undermine moderate voices, and further deepen the gulf between the two sides.”
Mladenov said that the Middle East Quartet envoys – representatives from the US, Russia, the EU and the UN – have begun work on a report that will review the situation on the ground, identify dangers to a two-state solution, and provide recommendations on the way to move forward.
“We remain seriously concerned that current trends – including continued acts of violence against civilians, incitement, ongoing settlement activity, and the high rate of demolitions of Palestinian structures – are dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution,” he said.
He also criticized the Palestinians for failing to achieve a Fatah-Hamas unity government.
“I strongly encourage the factions not to squander this important opportunity to reach a consensus that can enable the advancement of the long-term Palestinian national goals as well as near-term fiscal and development goals for the Palestinian people,” the envoy said.