US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers Wednesday that America’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over part of the Golan Heights will help bring Israeli-Palestinian peace closer.
“We believe this increases the likelihood that we get resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” the top American diplomat told a meeting of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday as it debated his department’s 2020 budget request.
“We think [the Golan recognition] speaks with the clarity that takes this away from any uncertainty about how we’ll proceed,” he said, according to Reuters.
Earlier in the hearing, Pompeo told the lawmakers that the US peace plan expected to be publicized after Israel’s April 9 elections would break with longstanding understandings on issues such as Jerusalem and Israeli settlements, as the old approach had failed.
The plan is unlikely to gain traction with Palestinians, as the Palestinian Authority rejected US mediation over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.
“I’m very confident that what was tried before failed, and I’m optimistic that what we’re doing will give us a better likelihood that we’ll achieve the outcomes that would be better for both the people of Israel and the Palestinian people as well,” Pompeo said Wednesday.
Pompeo repeatedly demurred when the committee’s Democratic chairwoman, Nita Lowey, asked him if the Trump administration stood by the decades-old US position in support of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
Pompeo said the United States wanted to “broaden the debate,” when asked if a peace deal would focus as in the past on establishing borders, mutual recognition and the status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Palestinian refugees.
“Those are the parameters that were largely at hand in the discussions before and they led us where we are today — no resolution,” Pompeo said.
The US plan will be “grounded in the facts on the ground and a realistic assessment of what would get us a good outcome,” he said.
The Trump administration has rallied behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the veteran right-winger faces a tough election.
Since taking office, Trump has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, closed the Palestinians’ office in Washington, pulled the United States from UN bodies accused of anti-Israel bias and cut off funding for the UN agency that provides schooling and other services to Palestinian refugees.
Representative David Price, a Democrat, questioned the approach, sarcastically asking Pompeo if the Palestinians should feel “grateful.”
“This is the path forward, you’re confident, to totally marginalize and alienate the Palestinian side?” Price said.
Speaking this week before the US pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, the US ambassador in Jerusalem, David Friedman, said Trump was pushing a peace plan because it would meet Israel’s goals.
Friedman said the Trump administration understood that Israel faced an “existential threat” if it gave up security control of the West Bank.
“Can we leave this to an administration that may not understand that in the Middle East, peace comes through strength, not just through words on a paper?” he asked.