Pompeo refuses to back Palestinian state in Senate hearings

Pompeo also refused to condemn Netanyahu for promising a partial Israeli annexation of Judea and Samaria.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dodged repeated questions regarding administration support for a Palestinian state in a Tuesday Senate hearing, saying only that it was up to the two sides to decide what will happen and that the US is working on its “vision” for peace.

In a hearing in the Senate Appropriations subcommittee whose subject was the administration’s planned cuts to the State Department and USAid 2020 budget, Pompeo was questioned on several foreign policy issues.

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) took the lead on Israel. He referred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s last-minute election pledge to right-wing supporters that he would soon annex the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

“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,” Van Hollen said. Secretary Pompeo avoided the question, referring only to the planned unveiling of the Trump peace plan in response.

“We are in the process of laying down our vision,” he said, adding that the president’s team led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump Mideast negotiator Jason Greenblatt would soon go public with the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ to “resolve a problem that’s been going on for decades and decades that previous administrations couldn’t solve.”

He also voiced cautious optimism, saying, “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.”

The secretary would not say one way or the other the administration supported a two-state solution saying, “Ultimately the Israelis and Palestinians will decide how to resolve this.”

The Trump administration has made several moves in favor of Israel, most notably moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last May, and last month’s formal acceptance of Israel’s 1981 declaration of sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Netanyahu’s promise to move forward with at least partial annexation in Judea and Samaria would set a new precedent for Israel. No Israeli administration has declared it would expand the country’s borders in those areas, even in the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War in which the territories were liberated from Jordan.