The United States signalled its opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent declaration that the Golan Heights will forever remain a part of Israel, stressing on Monday that Washington did not consider the Golan a part of Israel.
"Every administration on both sides of the aisle since 1967 has maintained that those territories are not part of Israel," US State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Kirby went on to say that the conditions under which the Golan Heights should be returned must be decided through negotiations between the respective parties. "And obviously, the current situation in Syria makes it difficult to continue those efforts at this time," Kirby said.
Meanwhile, US Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged "overwhelming frustration" with the Israeli government and said the systemic expansion of Jewish settlements was moving Israel toward a dangerous "one-state reality" and in the wrong direction.
Addressing J Street's annual gala, Biden said despite disagreements with Israel over settlements or the Iran nuclear deal, the United States had an obligation to push Israel toward a two-state solution to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
"We have an overwhelming obligation, notwithstanding our sometimes overwhelming frustration with the Israeli government, to push them as hard as we can toward what they know in their gut is the only ultimate solution, a two-state solution, while at the same time be an absolute guarantor of their security," Biden said.
Biden said his recent meetings with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas left him discouraged over the prospects for peace at present.
"There is at the moment no political will that I observed among Israelis or Palestinians to move forward with serious negotiations," Biden said, "The trust that is necessary to take risks for peace is fractured on both sides." He said both Palestinians and Israelis needed to tamp down rhetoric that fueled violence and actions that undermined confidence in negotiations.
Efforts by the Palestinian Authority to join the international criminal court were "only damaging moves that take us further from the path to peace," he said.
For Israel's part, Biden said the "steady, systematic expansion" of Jewish settlements on disputed land wanted by the Palestinians moved "Israel in the wrong direction."
"They are moving toward a one-state reality and that reality is dangerous," Biden said, warning that moving in that direction would mean an endless cycle of conflict and retribution.
Biden condemned the bombing of a bus and attack on another in Jerusalem on Monday by "misguided cowards" and offered prayers to the injured and their families.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry echoed Biden's remarks, also addressing J Street's gala. “We will continue to try to advance a two-state solution, the only solution, because anything else will not be Jewish, and it will not be democratic.”