US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday refused to reaffirm American support for a Palestinian state after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to extend Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements.
Testifying before a Senate subcommittee just as Israel wrapped up tight elections, Pompeo declined to respond when Democrats asked him to back a two-state solution.
“Ultimately, the Israelis and Palestinians will decide how to resolve this,” Pompeo replied.
Pompeo said that US President Donald Trump’s aides Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt would soon lay out a proposal “to resolve a problem that’s been going on for decades and decades that previous administrations couldn’t solve.”
“We’re hopeful that we have some ideas that are different, unique, which will allow the Israelis and the Palestinian people to come to a resolution of the conflict,” Pompeo said.
Days before the Israeli election, Netanyahu broke precedent by saying that he planned to extend Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements, home to some 400,000 Israeli Jews.
Exit poll results showed Netanyahu with a likely straightforward path to cobbling together a government and staying in power for a record fifth term. The constellation of parties will likely include the far-right Union of Right-Wing Parties, which has advocated for an extension of sovereignty.
US Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, told Pompeo that such a unilateral Israeli move would indicate “no agreement” would be possible with the Palestinians.
“It sounds like you’ve already abandoned what has been a bipartisan foreign policy of opposing the annexation of any or all of the West Bank by Israel,” he said.
Trump has strongly supported Netanyahu and taken a series of major actions long sought by Israel, including recognizing Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
The prime minister’s main election challenger, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, criticized Netanyahu’s pledge to apply Israeli law at the settlements, calling it “irresponsible” and questioning why a prime minister who has served for a total of 13 years was announcing such a dramatic decision on the eve of an election.