JERUSALEM - Nine months after it began, the Obama administration's marquee diplomatic effort to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians ended Tuesday with neither a whimper nor much of a bang.
The initiative pressed by Secretary of State John Kerry revived a brand of Middle East shuttle diplomacy made popular in the disco era and included a hundred closed-door meetings in a half dozen world capitals. But the talks reached their expiration date with both sides blaming the other (and the United States) for the impasse and saying that neither saw a true partner for peace in the other.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem on Tuesday that it was time to shift attention away from the failed peace talks and toward what he called a more urgent priority - the threat posed by Iran.
The Middle East talks finally collapsed last week after the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Islamic militant organization Hamas signed a pact promising a new united government in five weeks and presidential elections in seven months.
The Palestinians argue that Israel was looking for an excuse to end the talks and found cause in that reconciliation between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which controls politics in the West Bank. The two factions split in 2007 after Hamas seized power in Gaza.
"Israel never gave the negotiations a chance to succeed," said Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians' chief negotiator, on Tuesday. "If this Israeli government were sincerely interested in peace," he said, "it would have taken Palestinian national reconciliation as an opportunity for peace rather than an opportunity for a new blame game."