President Barack Obama is playing down expectations for a Mideast peace breakthrough during his upcoming trip to Israel, telling a gathering of Jewish activists that he won’t be carrying a “grand peace plan” when he arrives.
Obama, in an hourlong private meeting at the White House on Thursday, acknowledged that near-term prospects for peace are bleak, according to a person who attended the discussion. But the president said a deal with the Palestinians is the only way for Israel to achieve long-term security.
At the meeting, Obama said pursuing sweeping peace talks now would be premature, given that Israel is still working to form a new government. But he added that doesn’t preclude him from launching a peace effort in six months or a year, according to the person in attendance, who was not authorized to discuss the gathering publicly.
The White House did not put the Thursday meeting on the president’s public schedule. A White House official later said Obama sought input for his trip and underscored that it would be an opportunity for him to speak directly to the Israeli people.
Marc Stanley, chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, was among those who attended. He said Obama reiterated his “unshakeable support for Israel and explained that his upcoming trip will be focused on discussing with his Israeli counterparts the critical issues facing the Jewish state, including Iran, the peace process and Syria.”