Pompeo opens up about Trump peace plan in closed-door meeting

"He was not in any way confident that the process would lead to a successful conclusion," said one of the attendees under condition of anonymity.

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June 3, 2019 13:17
Pompeo opens up about Trump peace plan in closed-door meeting

Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Worldwide Threats" on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, February 13, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)

 
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In a closed-door meeting with Jewish leaders on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opened up about the Trump administration's upcoming Middle East peace plan, saying that "it may be rejected," the Washington Post reported.

Pompeo spoke at a private meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

"Could be in the end, folks will say 'It’s not particularly original, it doesn’t particularly work for me,’ that is, ‘it’s got two good things and nine bad things, I’m out,'" Pompeo said in the meeting.

The secretary of state added that "the big question is can we get enough space that we can have a real conversation about how to build this out."

Pompeo also noted that the plan has been repeatedly delayed, explaining that it "has taken us longer to roll out our plan than I had originally thought it might — to put it lightly."

The Washington Post referred to the secretary of state's statements as the most "unvarnished comments to date" from a US official about the "deal of the century."

Pompeo emphasized that there are "no guarantees that we’re the ones that unlock" the deadlocked conflict.

"I get why people think this is going to be a deal that only the Israelis could love," Pompeo said, addressing the widespread belief that the plan will favor the Israeli government. "I hope everyone will just give the space to listen and let it settle in a little bit."

Some of those attending the meeting said that they got the impression that Pompeo was not optimistic about the upcoming peace plan. "He was not in any way confident that the process would lead to a successful conclusion," said one of the attendees under condition of anonymity to the Washington Post.

Elan Carr, the State Department's special envoy to combat antisemitism also attended the meeting and told the Washington Post that he thought Pompeo "provided a hopeful assessment over the prospect of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians."

"It was an excellent briefing that was very well received by the conference," Carr said in a State Department statement.

"The fact that Pompeo so easily conceded the perception - and likely the reality - that the plan was strongly structured and tilted toward the Israelis is striking," said Aaron David Miller, a former negotiator and analyst on Middle East issues for both Republican and Democratic administrations, according to the Washington Post.

Malcom Hoenlein, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, however stated that he thought Pompeo's remarks were addressing the awareness of allegations of pro-Israel bias, not his own view of the peace plan. "He was saying it's too easy to fall into the trap of these negative assessments."

Although Pompeo is not overseeing the peace plan, he is kept updated about the effort, including plans for what to do if Israel decides to annex territory in the West Bank.

During the round of Israeli elections in April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank if he won.


Pompeo stated that in the case that Israel does decide to annex territory in the West Bank, the administration would then consider "what would be the best ways to achieve the outcomes that we think are in America and Israel’s best interests."

"I have seen what I believe are all of the details of what it is we are going to roll out," Pompeo stated, according to the Washington Post.

The secretary of state said that the Trump administration knows achieving a peace agreement will not be easy. "We’re under no illusions [that] we’re going to show up with this thing and everyone’s going to say, 'tell me where to go for the signing ceremony,'" Pompeo explained.

Pompeo added that the State Department has considered what it would do if the plan "doesn't gain traction."

"I don’t want to call it failing,” he explained. "Call it whatever. I fail a lot, so it’s not about not using a word like that."

Addressing questions of whether there was an effort to bring the Palestinians on board, Pompeo explained that "everyone will find something to hate about the proposal” but that everyone, including the Palestinians, “will find something that they say that’s something to build upon,” according to the Washington Post.

New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler claimed on Sunday that the White House is expected to wait to reveal the political portion of the Middle East peace plan, until after Israel's second election in September 17.

"But that timing has grown increasingly problematic. Any new Israeli coalition probably would not be formed until at least October, which would delay the announcement of a Trump plan until November, uncomfortably close to the first primaries of the 2020 election in the United States," Landler wrote.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke out against the deal at a May 27 event honoring donors to the Mahmoud Abbas Foundation, saying, “May the 'Deal of the Century' - the deal of shame - go to hell. The same goes for the Bahrain economic workshop that they are planning for the next month, in order to sell us more and more illusions.”

Abbas told attendees that the Palestinians will not accept the results of the Bahrain meeting, even if they appear to be in the Palestinians’ favor.

In a speech on al-Quds Day, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah related to the Trump peace plan, saying that “it is a religious, moral, national and political obligation to oppose [it], since this is a deal that is unjust and is contrary to the rights of the holy places.”

He further stressed that “the responsibility is clear: We must confront this deal, and we are capable of obstructing it.”

Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post Staff and Yasser Okbi/Maariv contributed to this report.

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