The White House on Friday defended the "tireless" efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry to secure peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to AFP.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Kerry’s Middle East peace bid had not been a waste of time because the stakes were so high.
The administration rode to Kerry's defense amid rising criticism of his decision to devote so much time to the peace effort, which appears on the verge of collapse.
"What Secretary Kerry has done is work tirelessly," Earnest was quoted by AFP as having said.
"He's been tireless in his efforts to try to broker some common ground between the Israelis and Palestinians," he added.
Asked whether Kerry's time had been wasted, or if it could have been better spent on many of the other boiling global crises, Earnest said the goal of Middle East peace was so important that he had been right to try.
"The stakes in this situation were very high, ... the world would stand to benefit significantly from the peaceful resolution of the differences between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people," he stated
At the same, Earnest also admitted that the chances of Kerry succeeding when he embarked on his Middle East peace quest a year ago had never been high.
"I don't know if people in Las Vegas are betting on these kinds of things these days, but I'm sure the odds -- if they were ... would be very long."
The White House reiterated Kerry's position that with the talks apparently on the rocks owing it was time for both sides to make tough choices.
Earnest, however, refused to say that Washington had given up on the process.
"That presupposes an additional step here, that at some point somebody throws up their hands and walks away. Secretary Kerry's certainly not willing to do that," he said, according to AFP.
The comments come hours after Kerry said he would "evaluate" his next steps regarding the peace talks, in light of Israel’s cancelling the fourth planned release of terrorists in response to the PA’s violating the conditions of the peace talks by unilaterally turning to the United Nations.
Kerry was returning to the United States Friday and Earnest said he would speak to Obama in the coming days to assess options.
Kerry admitted on Thursday that there was little he could do to save the talks, saying, “You can facilitate, you can push, you can nudge, but the parties themselves have to make fundamental decisions to compromise.”
On Friday, the PA tried to do some damage control, as senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath said that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas “did not mean to upset Kerry” when he breached the conditions of the peace talks by applying to 15 UN agencies.
Shaath said that the UN move was aimed against Israel and not against the Americans.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)