A laborer works on a construction site in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem… (Baz Ratner / Reuters )
Reporting from Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that the Obama administration would continue to pursue an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal despite the failure of its central strategy, and it intends to do so by pushing hard on both sides.
Clinton, facing growing skepticism about the administration's ability to make progress toward peace, said the United States would "push the parties to grapple with the core issues."
"The United States will not be a passive participant," she told Israeli and Palestinian officials and others gathered at the annual Saban Forum in Washington.
She repeated the administration's argument that the United States needs peace in the region for its own safety and not just that of Israelis and Palestinians.
Clinton's speech came three days after the administration acknowledged its inability to persuade Israel to halt construction of Jewish settlements in disputed areas for 90 days. The failure embarrassed the White House, which had offered Israel various incentives, and left the administration scrambling for a new way to coax the two sides to the negotiating table.
The administration is under pressure to keep hope alive for an eventual deal because a total collapse of the peace effort could badly weaken the moderate Fatah leadership of the Palestinian Authority and potentially set off a new round of violence.
Clinton provided few details of how the administration hopes to chart a new course. Her speech, which comes amid a broad internal review of the administration's approach to Middle East peace efforts, suggested that the administration may be backing away from its previous goal of reaching a basic deal within a year.
She referred to a peace deal as "eventual." She described how the two sides, by rebuilding trust, could "eventually" relaunch direct negotiation and work out a pact.
But Israeli and Palestinian leaders "should stop trying to assign blame for the next failure and focus instead on what they need to do to make these efforts succeed," she said.