By Ken Bredemeier
WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is voicing skepticism about the prospects for the Trump administration's long-delayed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan even before it is disclosed.
The top U.S. diplomat told a closed-door meeting with Jewish leaders last week that he understands why "people think this is going to be a deal that only the Israelis could love" and that there are "no guarantees" that the U.S. will succeed in brokering a peace agreement to end decades of conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.
In an audio recording of the private meeting obtained by The Washington Post, Pompeo said that "one might argue" that the plan, called the "deal of the century" by the administration of President Donald Trump, is "unexecutable" and might not "gain traction."
"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,'" Pompeo told the Jewish leaders.
Still, Pompeo expressed hope that Mideast leaders will not dismiss the yet-to-be-disclosed peace plan without considering it.
"The big question is can we get enough space that we can have a real conversation about how to build this out," he said.
There is no timetable for release of the plan, partly being crafted by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a White House adviser who has traveled extensively in the Mideast to meet with leaders there about the U.S. peace efforts.
The U.S. is planning to unveil an economic investment proposal for the Israeli-controlled Palestinian territories later this month at a conference in the Bahraini capital, Manama. But it does not plan to simultaneously offer a plan to resolve the more difficult political and territorial issues in the region.
Palestinian leaders have rejected attending the Bahrain meeting and often derided the U.S., long an Israeli ally, as an honest peace broker in the region.
"This has taken us longer to roll out our plan than I had originally thought it might – to put it lightly," Pompeo told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a New York-based group.
In an interview Monday with the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Pompeo pushed back against the idea that the United States, even with its long support of the Jewish state, cannot play a key role in forging a peace pact.
"I could see how someone might be concerned that a plan that this administration put forward might, uh – 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 said.
"And I was – I was articulating that there because it is just simply not true," he said of the comments he made to the Jewish leaders. "I think there will be things in this plan that lots of people like, and I am confident ... there will be something in there that everyone will find, [be] concerned with. Our idea is to present a vision and to continue to work towards a very, very difficult situation's conclusion."
Pompeo said the U.S. has "a deep, long relationship with Israel, an important relationship with Israel. And the president's made very clear that that's important to this administration, to have that important political, economic, and security relationship with Israel."
But he acknowledged, "We've struggled more with respect to the Palestinians. We've watched their terror activity in the Gaza Strip and we've pushed back against it. We've watched Iran underwrite some of that and we've pushed back against that."