Hillary Clinton says the “two-state solution,” is essential and not without merit despite setbacks. (Reuters)

It is not too late to resolve the long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians by creating an independent Palestinian state, likely presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday.

“I believe there is a necessary imperative to continue to try to achieve a resolution between Israel and the Palestinians,” Clinton said at a Brookings Institution forum on U.S.-Israeli relations.

She said the “two-state solution” that has been the basis of peace efforts fostered by former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as President Obama, is an “essential concept,” despite the many setbacks for that ideal.

“I am well aware of everything that is going on,” Clinton said, referring to the expansion of Israeli settlements, Palestinian unrest and the collapse of the latest effort at U.S.-brokered peace talks this year.

Many Palestinians and international critics of Israel claim that Israel has made the two-state ideal almost unattainable by its housing and security policies, and that with the passage of time the physical “facts on the ground” will make it impossible.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry spoke often of the rapidly narrowing window for peace before his efforts fell apart last spring amid rancor and finger-pointing on all sides. U.S. negotiators and the White House were furious with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the perceived undermining of that effort, although Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was also reluctant.

Clinton declined to say what she would do if she becomes president, but said U.S. support for peace remains essential and that Americans cannot afford to “throw up our hands.”

“You have to keep pushing all of these rocks up the hill at the same time,” Clinton said.

U.S. government relations with Israel are at a low over Israeli opposition to the nuclear deal Washington is pursuing with Iran and finger-pointing over the failure of U.S.-led peace talks between Israel and the West Bank Palestinian government.

Netanyahu and Obama have a chilly relationship at best, despite what Israel and the United States say is a solid bond between the nations.

Clinton acknowledged there is sometimes tension between leaders but insisted “it’s not personal.”

“The relationship between the United States and Israel is solid” and will remain so, Clinton said. “That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.”

Netanyahu has called for elections in March, two years ahead of schedule. That decision came last week as his coalition government crumbled and he fired two cabinet ministers, including the justice minister who had represented Israel in the failed U.S.-backed peace effort.

Divisions within the Israeli government were highlighted in part by discussion of a law to declare that Israel is a “Jewish state.” That issue was also a stumbling block in the negotiations Kerry convened last year. They collapsed in the spring and are unlikely to be revived soon.

Congress approved watered-down legislation Wednesday that increases some U.S.-Israeli cooperation but does not go as far as Israel wanted to eliminate visa barriers for Israeli travelers. The bill goes to Obama, who is expected to sign it.

The U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act underscores the American commitment to maintaining Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over Arab neighbors and promotes stronger ties in water, energy and other sectors. It increases the value of emergency U.S. weaponry kept in Israel by $200 million, to a total of $1.8 billion, the Associated Press reported.

Israel had sought the elimination of visa requirements under a waiver program accorded to several other close U.S. allies, such as Britain. The waiver program, a priority for Netanyahu, allows entry to the United States for up to 90 days after online registration. No separate visa is required.

But several senators and rights groups opposed extending the full waiver to Israel, because of travel restrictions it imposes on Palestinians, including Palestinian Americans, and security rules that can bar U.S. citizens of Arab origin from entering Israel.

The softened version calls only for Israel’s inclusion in the visa waiver program when it meets the requirements. The Obama administration has formed a working group to help move Israel toward qualification.