A leaked tape obtained by Washington Post featuring comments from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Jewish leaders concerning Trump’s Israel-Palestine peace plan is the news.
Pompeo appears desperate to keep alive this corpse, which many consider to be dead and buried, as it hinged on the expected Israeli formation of a government, which failed, pushing new elections to September, at which time the U.S. political campaigns will be heating up.
Pompeo suggests he doesn’t quite believe in the plan himself:
I get why people think this is going to be a deal that only the Israelis could love, I understand the perception of that. I hope everyone will just give the space to listen and let it settle in a little bit.
Pompeo told the gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that he’s privy to all the details of the plan, and said “one might argue” that the plan is “unexecutable” – but he kept expressing his hope of getting “space”, so as to “build this out”.
Towards the last part of the nearly six-minute recording, Pompeo answers a question concerning what happens if Israel decides to go ahead with annexation of part of the West Bank, and his mystifying answer ends with the concern of what is “in America and Israel’s best interest” – possibly a Freudian slip, in that Palestinians are not mentioned, but this seems to follow the pattern of what we have heard about this already.
Pompeo’s answer literally contains more questions than answers, and it is worth following:
All I’d say about that is we’ve given it a great deal of thought, that is, certainly since I’ve been Secretary of State. This was something we knew was a possibility. And how to think about that? To weigh in on that? Well, in the run up to any decision that Israel might make about that, and given that decision, what would be the appropriate response? We had hoped…frankly, this has taken us longer, to roll out our plan, than I had originally thought it might, to put it lightly…I’m hopeful we’ll get the space to do that [reveal the plan] before a decision like that would be made…the space to present it… it may be rejected. Could be in the end, folks will say, ‘It’s not particularly original, it doesn’t particularly work for me,’ that is, ‘It’s got two good things and nine bad things, I’m out’ […] I think there is [unintelligible] consensus on how we should proceed in those events… well, one of [the scenarios] addresses – what if we roll out the plan and it doesn’t make much progress and a decision is made [by Israel] to annex certain locations [in the West Bank], how would we respond, what would be the best way to achieve the outcomes that we think are in America and Israel’s best interest?
So Pompeo suggests that there has been some thought dedicated to this, but his response is foggy – it’s as if he’s saying ‘we think we’ll work it out, somehow’.
In effect, he’s saying we’ll follow Israel’s lead.
Trump supports Pompeo
Trump supported Pompeo in the wake of the leak, in specific concerning the “unexecutable” part:
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 expressed his fury about the second election in Israel, saying it was “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.
Trump urged Israel to “get their act together.”
This is another election-meddling by Trump – Netanyahu has blamed the failure to make a government on Avigdor Lieberman who insisted on a guarantee of ultra-orthodox draft.
Trump’s “we’ll see what happens” is an attempt to hedge losses if this doesn’t actually work out, if the plan is indeed dead.
Jared Kushner, the main negotiator of the plan, has also hedged recently:
Success can look like a lot of different things. It can look like an agreement, it can look like a discussion, it could lead to closer cooperation, maybe resolve a couple of issues, maybe not?
So what we are really witnessing here, is American officials who are beginning to concede that their “deal of the century” may indeed be dead and buried, and they are beginning to cut their losses. But no worries – in the end, it’s all going to work out in America and Israel’s best interests. Let’s just wait and “see what happens”.
Update: This post originally appeared with a headline saying that there is “not consensus” in the Trump administration on its response if Israel decides to annex portions of the West Bank. The tape is not clear whether Pompeo said “not consensus” or “now consensus.”