Pompeo: Peace efforts to begin ‘immediately following Israeli elections’
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Talks 'won’t be a US-driven process'; it's up to the 2 sides

Pompeo: Peace efforts to begin ‘immediately following Israeli elections’

In the past, the Trump administration has refused to commit to a timetable for rolling out its long-awaited plan

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seen on screens during his address via satellite at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, on January 22, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seen on screens during his address via satellite at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, on January 22, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that the US will begin unspecified “work” on a renewed peace process between Israelis and Palestinians “immediately following” Israeli elections on April 9.

Speaking by satellite to the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, the top US diplomat said the talks “won’t be a US-driven process. Ultimately, the Israelis and the Palestinians will have to come to an agreement. But we think that the foundations that we have laid and the work that we’ll do immediately following the Israeli elections will set conditions where we can have a constructive conversation.”

The Trump administration has “been working on this for a long time,” he added. “Mr. [Jared] Kushner has been in the lead along with Jason Greenblatt in developing our program.”

He confirmed that “we’ve begun to share elements of this across the region.”

In the past, the Trump administration has refused to commit to a timetable for the rollout of its peace plan, though speculation has centered on a post-election timeframe. The administration has also refused to divulge information about the plan’s content.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with the ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Last Thursday, a Channel 13 news report, swiftly denied by the Trump administration, claimed that the proposal provides for a Palestinian state in 85-90 percent of the West Bank, with the sovereign capital of Palestine located in “most of the Arab neighborhoods” of East Jerusalem.

In his Davos comments, Pompeo noted that the conflict “has troubled the region for decades and decades now. It seems to me that we’re at a point in time where there are ways that we can resolve the primary differences and encourage those two places, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to come together to resolve their differences and get a solution there that has bedeviled the world for an awfully long time.”

According to the Channel 13 report, based on what it said was information conveyed by a participant at a recent briefing by “a senior American,” the US administration’s so-called “deal of the century” provides for Jerusalem to be divided, with Israel maintaining sovereignty in West Jerusalem, parts of East Jerusalem and the “holy basin,” including the Old City and its immediate environs. However, it added that the “holy basin” area would be “jointly run” with the Palestinians, Jordan and possibly other countries.

The White House dismissed the story as unfounded speculation. “As in the past, speculations regarding the peace plan are inaccurate. We have no further reaction,” it said in a statement quoted by Channel 13.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks while US President Donald Trump listens before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

In addition to 85-90% of the West Bank coming under Palestinian sovereignty, the Trump administration will reportedly also propose various land swaps — enabling Israel to extend its sovereignty into unspecified areas of the West Bank, in exchange for current Israeli territory. Channel 13 said the scale of such land swaps was not yet clear.

Regarding settlements, the TV report said major settlement blocs would be annexed to Israel. “Isolated” settlements — it named Yitzhar and Itamar as examples — would not be forcibly evacuated, but would also not be allowed to expand, and would thus be “dried out.” Outposts defined as illegal under Israeli law would be evacuated.

The report made no mention of the plan’s proposals regarding Palestinian refugees, nor of the intended fate of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

It said the Americans anticipate that the Palestinians will reject the proposal in its current form; Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has been boycotting the administration since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

It said that the administration expects Israel, by contrast, to say yes to the proposal.

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