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SEPTEMBER 2020

Mike Pompeo: Israel’s Annexation Of West Bank Won’t Hurt Peace Efforts In Region

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Mike Pompeo: Israel's Annexation Of West Bank Won't Hurt Peace Efforts In Region

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he doesn’t think Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election vow to annex the West Bank would hurt peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Pompeo’s answer to Jake Tapper’s question in the CNN interview can be heard between 7 minutes 30 seconds until the end of the video.

“I don’t, I think that the vision we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used”, Pompeo said. He also said that the Trump administration had some new and fresh ideas to resolve the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel, but it would ultimately come down to them.

He said that whether it is the two-state solution or something else, there could be potential for peace. But the actions undertaken over the past 40 years by several administrations both in the US and Israel have proven to be ineffective.

On the same day, four Jewish Democrats in the US Congress warned Israel not to annex West Bank territory.

The statement by Reps. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., Ted Deutch, D-Fla. and Brad Schneider, D-Ill., did not name the Israeli prime minister, but alluded to his pledge on the eve of elections that he would extend Israeli law to all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, even those in remote areas, that would diminish the prospects of a contiguous Palestinian state.

“As strong, life-long supporters of Israel, a U.S.-Israel relationship rooted in our shared values, and the two-state solution, we are greatly concerned by the possibility of Israel taking unilateral steps to annex the West Bank. Every one of Israel’s frontiers plays an important role in its security, and Israel’s ability to guard itself from threats is non-negotiable. We hope that any security measures are implemented within the context of preserving the eventual possibility of a two-state solution. Two states for two peoples, negotiated directly by the two sides, with mutually agreed upon land swaps, is the best option to achieve a Jewish, democratic, secure Israel living side-by-side with a democratic, de-militarized Palestinian state.

This will not be easy. Palestinian leadership has been unwilling to accept any reasonable peace proposal or even to negotiate seriously toward a solution. To paraphrase Abba Eban, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. And instead of negotiating, they have pursued unilateral statehood through the United Nations.

Our fear is that such unilateral steps—whether from Israelis or Palestinians—would push the parties farther from a final, negotiated settlement.”

On April 10th, US Senator Chris Van Hollen multiple times asked Mike Pompeo whether the Trump administration would oppose Netanyahu’s possible plan of annexation of the West Bank. He received no answer.

“We are now working with many parties to share what our vision (is) as to how to solve this problem,” Pompeo told a U.S. Senate hearing where he was pressed for a response on the issue.

He said the administration “has been working on a set of ideas” for Middle East peace “that we hope to present before too long,” adding that he hoped they would provide a basis for discussions on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine asked Pompeo if he thought a peace agreement including one state for Israel and one state for the Palestinians was an outdated idea.

“It’s certainly an idea that’s been around a long time, senator,” Pompeo responded. “Ultimately the individuals in the region will sort this out.”

The final results of the April 9th elections also came in: Benny Gantz’ Blue and White alliance won 35 seats in the Israeli Knesset and lost to Netanyahu’s Likud, which received 36.

Netanyahu is the obvious choice as leader of the largest party. If nominated to form a government, he will have up to 42 days to form a government. If he fails, the president asks another politician to try.

The government would possibly be a repeat of the previous one, with the right-wing smaller parties supporting Netanyahu to form it.

Netanyahu strongly expresses Likud’s traditionally hawkish positions on security in matters such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and foreign policy, with Iran currently as the focus.

About 400,000 Jewish settlers live alongside 2.9 million Palestinians in the territory that Israel captured in a 1967 war, and has held under military occupation ever since, but never formally annexed.

The tensions between Arabs and Israel in the region is also present, especially after Trump announced his decision to recognize Syria’s occupied territory of Golan Heights as part of Israel on March 25th.

Prior to that, Trump recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US embassy there, which led to mass protests by Arabs.

Most recently, the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, presumably at Netanyahu’s suggestion, which promises to also have potentially dangerous and unforeseen repercussions both for the US and Israel.

Whether Israel would really annex the West Bank is still unknown, but with the US’ unwavering support and its actions that appear to be becoming bolder as time goes by, it wouldn’t be surprising.

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