U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday it is hard to envision a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pre-election comments ruling it out.
After White House talks with visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Obama said he and Israeli voters took Netanyahu at his word that the Palestinians will not have their own state under his watch. The Israeli leader has since tried to backtrack on those comments, saying he has not changed his long-held policy.
Obama said Netanyahu has put so many conditions on a two-state solution that it would be impossible to have one anytime soon.
The U.S. leader reiterated his opinion that an Israeli and Palestinian state side-by-side is the best way to achieve peace in the region.
He said he would evaluate how best to manage Israeli-Palestinian relations over the rest of his term as a result.
The issue is not a matter of relations between leaders,'' Obama told reporters at a news conference, noting that he has a "very businesslike relationship" with Netanyahu.
"This can't be reduced to a matter of somehow let's all, you know, hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya.' This is a matter of figuring out how do we get through a real knotty policy difference that has great consequences for both countries and for the region,'' Obama said.
The friction over the issue of a two-state solution follows bitter disagreements over the U.S. role in international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
Relations between the two leaders have been strained over U.S. efforts to reach an international agreement with Iran to curb Tehran's nuclear program.
Netanyahu has decried the talks, saying they are leading to a deal that would place Israel at risk. Obama has said the deal would only be finalized if it increases security for the U.S., Israel and the region.