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Barack Obama’s senior adviser on Middle East issues declined to offer a timeline for achieving a two-state solution.

Former U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross told JTA on Thursday that an Obama administration would be actively engaged in promoting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with the ultimate objective of achieving a two-state solution. But, he added, “engagement without illusion” is what’s necessary.

“We’ll be engaged in an intensive way, not in an episodic way,” Ross said. “The objective is to produce peace, but we’re not going to produce artificial timelines. We’d like to achieve it as soon as possible, but we’re not going to stake out something before we know what can be achieved.”

One major obstacle, he said, was Hamas’ control of Gaza.

“There won’t be a two-state solution with Hamas controlling Gaza — it can’t be,” he said.

According to Ross, Palestinians will not accept a division of the territories and Israelis will not accept a two-state solution with Hamas in control of Gaza. Given that reality, it would be a big mistake to offer up an immediate target date for achieving a deal.

“Don’t stake out positions you can’t meet because when you do that, one thing you do is erode your own credibility,” Ross said, adding, “We can’t be in a position where we continue to show how ineffective we are.”

What the next administration can look to do right away, he said, is to become more engaged, bring both sides and Arab countries to the table, and start improving conditions on the ground.

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