US rules out Mideast peace deal before Obama leaves office

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has made a “realistic assessment” that a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians is not possible during his final months in office, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The officials spoke to reporters ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House on Monday. It’s the first time Obama and Netanyahu have met face-to-face since the U.S. and its international partners reached a nuclear accord with Iran.

Netanyahu was a chief critic of the deal and lobbied Republican lawmakers to oppose its implementation.

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. They said that while Obama remains committed to a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, he does not believe it’s possible before he leaves office in January 2017, barring a major shift.

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.