JERUSALEM — Mideast peace, America’s defining issue for decades of dealings with Israel and its Arab neighbors, was just a postscript Monday as Hillary Rodham Clinton made perhaps her final visit to the region as secretary of state.
Three years after President Obama declared the plight of the Palestinians ‘‘intolerable,’’ his administration no longer sees the failing Arab-Israeli peace efforts with the same immediacy. US interests are focused now on Iran and Syria, though the deep differences between Israel and the Palestinians are not ignored.
After meeting with top Israeli officials Monday, Clinton said the United States will use its power to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. She said Washington would keep raising the pressure on Iran as long as it fails to come clean on its disputed uranium enrichment program.
The veiled threat came as the United States and Israel debate how best to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. The United States is seeking more time for negotiations and sanctions, while Israel has repeatedly hinted at military action. Both suspect Iran may be aiming toward producing nuclear weapons, an assertion Iran denies
Throughout her day of meetings with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the country’s president, foreign minister, and defense minister, Clinton also spoke about the need to halt violence in Syria and underscored America’s support for Israel.
Clinton called for the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians “because we believe that is the only route to a lasting peace,’’ but said progress was up to the two parties.
‘‘Peace among Israel, the Palestinian people, and all of Israel’s Arab neighbors is crucial for Israel’s long-term progress and prosperity,’’ she said.
Clinton also met Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, but she couldn’t report any progress toward an accord that might secure an independent Palestine and an Israel at peace with its neighbors.
In a departure from the usual pattern for top US diplomats, Clinton did not travel to the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank headquarters in Ramallah. The Palestinians said a visit was unnecessary because Clinton had met with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, just a few days earlier in Paris.
Israel has defied Obama’s call to halt settlement construction in occupied lands, and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank has refused to resume negotiations. Both Israelis and Palestinians are frustrated with one another and with Obama’s peace efforts so far.