The Washington Times - November 6, 2008, 04:50PM

The White House finally admitted Thursday what everyone has known for quite a while — that there won’t be a deal to establish a Palestinian state before President Bush leaves office.

“We do not think it is likely it will happen before the end of the year,” press secretary Dana Perino told reporters.

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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is currently in the Middle East, would not utter those words but set low expectations for her trip, which is aimed at reviewing what the Israelis and the Palestinians have achieved in negotiations.

The Bush administration started an effort to secure an agreement on a Palestinian state a year ago at a high-profile summit in Annapolis, with the leaders of more than 50 countries. Miss Rice has made repeated visits to the region since then, but a deal was never even close.

Still, Miss Rice said the Annapolis process provides a useful “framework” with both sides’ active participation that would help the administration of President-elect Barack Obama “when the political circumstances permit.”

There is currently political turmoil on both sides, with Israel getting ready for new elections and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ term expiring in January. He says the law allows him to stay on for another year, until the next parliamentary elections, but the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, disagrees.