TEL AVIV – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday seemed to walk back comments he made in a leaked recording last week, saying it was “inaccurate and fundamentally untrue” to think that the long-anticipated Trump administration peace proposal is biased towards Israel.
In a closed-door meeting last week between Pompeo and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the secretary of state said: “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,” he added, according to a leaked audio tape obtained by the Washington Post.
However he clarified his comments on Monday in an interview with the Sinclair Broadcast Group.
“I’ve seen the perception,” he said. “And they’re wrong. It’s inaccurate and it’s fundamentally untrue.”
“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 said. “And I was articulating that there because it’s just simply not true.”
“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 Sinclair. “Our idea is to present a vision and to continue to work towards a very, very difficult situation’s conclusion.”
In the leaked comments, Pompeo gave a sobering assessment that the proposal would be accepted, and said that parts of it might be “unexecutable.”
“[F]olks 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,’” he told Jewish leaders.
Responding to the report, Trump said Pompeo’s skepticism may be justified.
“He may be right,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Sunday.
“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.
He added that the current political turmoil in Israel 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,” he said, and urged Israel’s leaders to “get their act together.”
Pompeo’s remarks were made a day before the deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition, a deadline he ultimately failed to make, leading to the dispersal of the Knesset and a call for new elections in September.
“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.”
“I hope everyone will look at it and say that there is at least a nugget of hope in there for me,” he said.
Next month, the U.S. is hosting an “economic workshop” in Manama, Bahrain to unveil the economic aspects of the deal. The summit has been snubbed by the Palestinians.
Pompeo’s remarks came as Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and Special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt visited the region in advance of the Manama workshop.
Kushner on Sunday suggested he was uncertain of the Palestinians’ ability to govern themselves.