(JTA) — One year may not be enough to complete peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Crowley said negotiations could take longer because of the delay over Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month housing construction freeze that ended in November, leading the Palestinians to leave talks.
Earlier in the year, negotiations had resumed under U.S. auspices after a several years’ hiatus. Obama officials had pointed to completing an agreement between the two sides by September 2011, and Crowley said that remains the goal.
But the most important challenge now, he said, is to get the two parties back to the negotiating table.
"And then once we get into the negotiation, once again, then we would hope that the parties will advance systematically through the core issues to an agreement," Crowley said, adding that "you can’t get to an agreement unless the parties are into negotiation."
Crowley refused to comment on questions regarding a much-talked about U.S. offer of incentives to freeze Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank for an additional 90 days, including whether the United States would be giving Israel an additional 20 F-35 stealth fighter jets in addition to the 20 Israel has already committed to buy at a cost of $3 billion.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday called Israel’s consideration of the incentives package, which Netanyahu presented in principle to his Cabinet on Sunday, "a very promising development and a serious effort by Prime Minister Netanyahu."