The White House on Friday played down suggestions that Vice President Joe Biden would launch a new peace initiative during a visit to Israel and the West Bank next week.
“The vice president will not be carrying any major new initiatives,” a senior administration official told reporters. “It’s an uncertain context in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”
A five-month wave of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories has killed more than 200 people, according to a AFP toll count.
“Obviously we are all watching with great concern the kind of defuse but persistent violence between Palestinians and Israelis in recent months,” the official said.
Biden is set to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah.
He will also meet former Israeli president Shimon Peres. “Peres has had some health issues as of late, and this is basically a friend meeting with another long-standing friend,” the official said.
Biden and Netanyahu are expected to discuss the fight against the ISIS group.
The Israeli prime minister has angered the White House by publicly opposing a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, an idea that had been the bedrock for decades of peace talks.
Biden’s visit to Israel will be his second since a trip in 2010 was marred by the announcement of a major Israeli settlement project in annexed east Jerusalem.
Six years on, after some fits and starts, the peace process remains moribund.
“It’s not clear to us that the two sides at the moment have the political will to (hold) genuine negotiations,” the White House official said.
“So while we will continue to urge both sides to find steps to de-escalate the tensions and leave the door open for a two-state outcome, the vice president is not going to be bringing any major initiatives.”
President Barack Obama has stated that the two-state solution remains the only viable outcome. Israel’s changing demographics would fundamentally alter the country’s character if it does not embrace a two-state solution, the official indicated.
“It’s hard to see how in the coming decade Israel remains both secure and democratic and a Jewish state in the absence of a two-state outcome,” he said.
Biden departs Washington on Tuesday and will travel to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan in addition to Israel and the West Bank.SHOW MORE