President Obama remains committed to a two-state solution in the Middle East, but comments from Israel's new foreign minister rejecting the most recent U.S.-backed peace plan could create new roadblocks on an already bumpy road to peace, observers said.
U.S. officials Wednesday reiterated the president's commitment to bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, despite the first public comments by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying that Israel was not bound to a 2007 U.S-backed agreement on potentially creating a Palestinian state.
"The Obama administration is committed to seeking a two-state solution for a resolution of differences between Israel and the Palestinians," said Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman.
By rejecting the process Israel accepted at Annapolis, Md. in 2007, Lieberman was challenging the U.S. on a long-held foreign policy position, said Tony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an ABC News consultant.
"It is quite clear that the efforts on the part of the president to pursue a two-state solution are going to be more difficult under Netanyahu and a foreign minister who represents the radical right," said Cordesman.
At a handover ceremony Wednesday attended by outgoing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and a roomful of foreign diplomats, Lieberman -- a member of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, a faction of Prime Minister Ben Netanyahu's new rightist coalition -- said the government would not recognize the process launched at Annapolis and that making concessions to the Palestinians would only lead to more wars.
"The government of Israel never approved the Annapolis process. The government of Israel and the state of Israel never approved Annapolis," Lieberman said.
Lieberman, however, did not completely reject talking with the Palestinians, and his comments seemed to suggest Israel still is willing to start talks based on the 2002 so-called "roadmap to peace."
"It does not sound like he completely rejected negotiations with the Palestinians," said Edward Djerejian, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria and director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
"The key point is that there is not going to be any progress in talks under any rubric -- Annapolis or the roadmap -- unless they're based on the fundamental understanding of land for peace and a two-state solution," said Djerejian, who drafted the roadmap in 2002.
"If Israel is really departing from that premise, it's going to be problem for Obama," said Djerejian.
Wednesday was both Lieberman and Netanyahu's first day in office, and it remains to be seen if Lieberman's comments were gaffes by a neophyte politician used to addressing his nationalist base and not the entire world, or a fundamental shift in Israeli policy.
"Netanyahu is going to have to clarify what his country's position is," said Dejerjian. "This is an early statement from newly formed government that has to be clarified. Ultimately, Netanyahu speaks for his government."
The Obama administration seemed to give Netanyahu a pass, answering questions about Lieberman's comments by repeating previous remarks made by Netanyahu in support of a two-state solution.
"As for statements made, or comments made, I point you to Prime Minister Netanyahu's comments, that he will work for peace with the Palestinians and peace in the region," Duguid told the press Wednesday.