In Israel, Pompeo Blames Palestinians for Failure of Trump Peace Plan After Visiting West Bank Settlement

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed the Palestinian leadership for the failure of President Donald Trump's controversial Middle East peace plan, which Palestinians and their supporters have dismissed as a pro-Israeli blueprint formalizing occupation.

Speaking with The Jerusalem Post at the end of this week's visit to Israel, Pompeo said the U.S. sympathized with the Palestinian people but was critical of their leadership, expressing hope that the long awaited but widely panned Trump peace proposal could still one day succeed.

The Palestinian leadership under President Mahmoud Abbas cut ties with the U.S. and Israel during Trump's term, and has accused the White House of being complicit in Israeli human rights abuses, plus the continued occupation of and expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.

Since President-Elect Joe Biden's victory in this month's election, the leadership has begun to shift. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has said it will resume cooperation with Israel on a range of issues amid hopes that Biden's administration will be able to resurrect dialogue.

Pompeo told the Post: "We always remain hopeful that we will increase the communications between ourselves and the Palestinian leadership."

But he blamed Abbas' administration in the West Bank and the Hamas militant group—which controls the blockaded coastal Gaza Strip—for the collapse of Trump's peace efforts, which were fronted by his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

"If you look at the Vision for Peace that we laid down, it clearly demarcated a brighter future for the Palestinian people, and yet the Palestinian leadership refused to even negotiate on its basis," Pompeo said. "That's unfortunate for the Palestinian people."

The peace proposal offered a raft of economic incentives to agree to the plan. But the Palestinians, who were not involved in the negotiations, would have had to accept full demilitarization, abandon all international legal action against Israel and the U.S., and fully comply with all aspects of the plan, some of which were dismissed as impossible.

The offer also rejected Palestine's claim to Jerusalem as the future state's capital, and effectively gave a green light for Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements considered illegal by the United Nations and most of the international community, despite American and Israeli challenges.

Critics characterized the plan as a smokescreen for annexation and a death knell for the two-state solution which many observers have warned has been rendered de facto defunct.

Trump allies had described the plan as the "Deal of the Century," but Abbas dismissed it as the "slap of the century." Then-secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat—who died earlier this month—said it should be known as the "fraud of the century."

Despite all the criticism, Pompeo claimed the Palestinian leadership was subverting the will of the Palestinian people by rejecting the plan. One Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll showed that 94 percent of Palestinians rejected the peace proposal.

"With respect to Palestinian policy, we hope that Palestinian policy will come to reflect the will of Palestinians. If it does, I am confident that the Palestinian leadership would come to the table," Pompeo said.

"They'd sit down, have hard-fought negotiations. They'd have disagreements we've had for decades, but they can come to a set of common understandings that would deliver a really good outcome and a much better life for the people that live in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip as well," Pompeo said, using an Israeli government term for the administrative district covering the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"These are places where people are living in very difficult conditions, and it's most unfortunate and unnecessary. It's brought to them by failed leadership whether it's the [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] in Gaza or Hamas in Gaza or the leadership in the West Bank today, it's most unfortunate," Pompeo added.

Pompeo gave the interview one day after becoming the first U.S. secretary of state to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The Trump administration has already said it does not consider these settlements illegal, but Pompeo's visit was a stamp of approval to their existence and expansion.

After his Psagot visit, Pompeo also issued a statement saying the U.S. would require goods imported from areas "where Israel exercises the relevant authorities" to be marked as "Israel", "Made in Israel", or "Product of Israel."

Pro-Palestinian groups have long campaigned for such products to be explicitly marked as having come from West Bank settlements, and European courts have rejected efforts to mark them as Israeli.

Pompeo also said the U.S. considers the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement—which seeks to pressure the Israeli government through non-violent economic actions—anti-Semitic. The movement rejected the charge and condemned what it called the "fanatic Trump-Netanyahu alliance."

Mike Pompeo, Israel, Palestinians, peace plan, Trump
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares to board a plane at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on November 20. PATRICK SEMANSKY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/Getty