The State Department said Monday it has no plans to help restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, despite weekend reports that some new U.S. effort would be made.
Instead, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. does not believe either side is doing enough to help restart the talks, and thinks presenting a peace plan now would not be productive.
She also cited Israel's decision to approve construction of more apartments in east Jerusalem as a primary example of an action that will not help the peace process. She said those construction plans are "contrary" to the objective of a peace agreement.
"There are no current plans to introduce a peace plan," Psaki said on behalf of the Obama administration. Psaki said the U.S. is still talking to both parties, but said it won't make an effort to lead them until they show more willingness.
"It's up to the parties to take steps," she added. "We know what the issues are, we know what the conditions would be, but it's up to them, so we're only going to take steps that we think would be productive."
Psaki also indicated the U.S. would not try to force the two sides together if they can't make some progress on their own.
"If the two sides indicate they are interested in returning, and there's a willingness, then we're willing to be a capable partner," she said. When asked whether Secretary of State John Kerry was holding his breath for that to happen, she said, "He's not."
Her announcement came just hours after reports surfaced in the Middle East that the U.S. would put forward some sort of plan to get the two sides talking again.
Psaki's comments are just the latest sign that the Obama administration appears to be disengaging with Israel, and will likely fuel more criticism that the administration is purposefully allowing the U.S.-Israel relationship deteriorate. In October, a top Obama official was quoted as saying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a "chickens**t," and State later said it would not bother to find out who said it.
Her criticism of the east Jerusalem construction project only adds more distance between the two.
Psaki said the U.S. does not approve of those plans, and said the project goes against the larger goal of finding a peace agreement. While Israel has claimed control over east Jerusalem, the U.S. has not recognized this control, and Palestinians who want to make that area part of their capital also oppose Israel's annexation.
"If they were going to restart a peace negotiation, we would be seeing actions and we'd be seeing efforts on their part to do that. And obviously, steps like this are contrary to that objective," Psaki said of Israel's construction plans.
"It would be unfortunate at this sensitive time that, after the unequivocal and unanimous position last week of the United States and others in the international community opposing construction in east Jerusalem... Israeli authorities would actively seek to move these plans forward," Psaki added.