John Kerry moves up Middle East on Foggy Bottom to-do list

John Kerry testifies during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing to be secretary of state 24 January 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Senator John Kerry said "the window or door on a two-state solution" was still open

John Kerry is warning that the possibility of the Palestinians getting their own state could soon be lost for ever - and that would be a disaster.

The man who is almost certainly going to be the next US secretary of state has given a broad hint that getting another round of Middle East peace talks going will be one of his top priorities.

He told senators at his confirmation hearing that "we need to find a way forward, and I happen to believe there is a way forward, but the window or door on a two-state solution could shut - and that would be disastrous for all concerned".

He said he had thought a lot about the challenge but he did not want to prejudice any new effort by being too explicit about what he would do.

Election outcome

The White House will be watching to see which parties end up in the new Israeli government after this week's elections.

Many in Washington believe there is no prospect of a two-state solution while Benjamin Netanyahu is Prime Minister, whoever his partners are.

Although the result weakened the Israeli prime minister, he may bring right-wing parties into his coalition, and that would seem to make the possibility of new talks even more remote.

But some say that will not dissuade the Obama administration from pushing forward. The thought is that if the United States puts a plan on the table, both Israelis and Palestinians would have to take it seriously.

They claim there have been meetings in the White House involving top officials about how to push the process forward, and if Mr Obama doesn't make a move soon the possibility of a two-state solution could be lost for ever.

He has nothing to lose by at least giving it a go.

If this is true it would explain why British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is in Washington next week, has said it should be the US's highest priority - he already knows it will be.

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