WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday clarified comments he shared with Jewish leaders, saying that it was an “inaccurate” perception that the Trump administration’s peace proposal could be seen as one-sided toward Israel.
The Washington Post reported Sunday on a recording obtained from an off-the-record meeting last week between Pompeo and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“I get why people think this is going to be a deal that only the Israelis could love,” he said in those remarks. “I understand the perception of that. I hope everyone will just give the space to listen and let it settle in a little bit.”
On Monday, in an interview with the Sinclair Broadcast Group, he clarified those statements.
“I can see how someone might be concerned that a plan that this administration put forward might, without knowing the true facts of what is contained in the plan, they might perceive that it was going to be fundamentally one-sided,” Pompeo told Sinclair. “And I was articulating that there because it’s just simply not true.”
The plan, which has yet to be revealed, has been formulated by a team led by Jared Kushner, a top adviser to President Donald Trump and his Jewish son-in-law.
“I think there’ll be things in this plan that lots of people like, and I am confident, as I said — I think it was quoted in that paper as well — there’ll be something in there that everyone will find I’m concerned with,” Pompeo told Sinclar. “Our idea is to present a vision and to continue to work towards a very, very difficult situation’s conclusion.”
However, Pompeo did not walk back the skepticism he showed in the original remarks, where he gave a somber assessment of the chances of plan, acknowledging that parts of it might be “unexecutable,” could fail, or may be dismissed out of hand by either the Israelis or the Palestinians.
The plan has repeatedly been postponed and Pompeo’s remarks were made a day before the collapse of Israeli coalition negotiations and a move to fresh elections in September, something that is widely expected to set back the launch of the plan even further.
Even then Pompeo noted, “This has taken us longer to roll out our plan than I had originally thought it might — to put it lightly.”
After the publication of the remarks on Sunday, US President Donald Trump was asked about Pompeo’s skepticism, telling reporters outside the White House: “He may be right.”
“When Mike says that, I understand when he says that, because most people think it can’t be done. I think it probably can. But, as I say often, we’ll see what happens,” Trump said, adding that he was unhappy with the situation in Israel, which he called “messed up.”
“Bibi got elected. Now, all of a sudden, they’re going to have to go through the process again until September? That’s ridiculous. So we’re not happy about that,” he said, urging Israel to “get their act together.”
Pompeo, who said he believes he has seen “all the details of what we are going to roll out,” said the plan was “very detailed.” However, he conceded that parts of it are, “one might argue, unexecutable.”
Pompeo’s remarks were the most candid yet from the Trump administration on the challenges facing the plan, dubbed by the US president the “deal of the century,” and he expressed hope that the parties would even consider it.
“Three things are certain, everyone will find something to hate about the proposal,” he said. “Everyone will find something, I think, including the Palestinians, will find something they say ‘that’s something to build upon.’ And the big question is can we get enough space that we can have a real conversation about how to build this out.”
The Palestinians have already dismissed the peace plan and said they will not attend the Bahrain summit, rejecting it as heavily biased in favor of Israel.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cut ties with the Trump administration in late 2017 after it recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Palestinians envision East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Pompeo also said that once the US puts out the plan it will be up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to “deliver it.” The US “won’t drive this,” he said.
“We’re under no illusions we’re going to show up with this thing and everyone’s going to say, ‘Tell me where to go for the signing ceremony,’” he said. “It doesn’t work that way.”
“I hope everyone will look at it and say that there is at least a nugget of hope in there for me,” he said.