Pompeo and the P-word: Undoing decades of diplomacy with Palestine

Pompeo and the P-word: Undoing decades of diplomacy with Palestine
Blog: During his Middle East trip, newly appointed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met no Palestinian officials despite rising tensions with Israel.
3 min read
30 Apr, 2018
Pompeo justified Israel's killings of unarmed Palestinians during his visit [Getty]
Days after Mike Pompeo vowed to bring some "swagger" back to US diplomacy when appointed US Secretary of State, he embarked on a whistlestop tour of the Middle East - and undid decades of diplomacy with Palestine.

During his stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, Pompeo urged Palestinian engagement, despite not meeting a single Palestinian representative and only mentioning Palestinians a handful of times.

"We remain committed to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future for both Israel and the Palestinians," Pompeo said, in remarks on Sunday in Tel Aviv while standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. 

Then in Amman on Monday, while addressing the lack of progress on a two-state solution, Pompeo urged Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

"We're certainly open to a two-party solution as a likely outcome. We certainly believe that the Israelis and the Palestinians need to have political engagement."

Note the use of the word "party" and not "state".

"We urge the Palestinians to return to that political dialogue," he said.

He also refused to criticise Israel for the killing of nearly 50 Palestinians in four consecutive weeks. They were protesting at the Gaza border. 

"We believe the Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and we're fully supportive of that," Pompeo said following talks with Ayman Safadi, Jordan's minister of foreign affairs.

Despite rising tensions between Israel and Palestinians, Pompeo instead focused on Iranian influence in the region.

His lack of engagement with Palestinians set an "ominous" tone for future peace talks, a former diplomat told the New York Times

"No meeting in Ramallah on his first visit sets an ominous tone about prospects for any progress, or even dialogue, with the Palestinians," said Daniel Shapiro, an American ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration.

Aaron David Miller, a former negotiator for the United States in the Middle East, said Pompeo's apparent indifference towards the Palestinians "at the very least suggests a casual disregard of the Israeli-Palestinian explosion that may be building and the US' inability or unwillingness to influence the course of events".

Washington is currently working on a long-awaited peace plan, under the leadership of President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Trump's decision in early December to move the US embassy to Jerusalem soured ties between Ramallah and Washington as Palestinian officials and public felt a sense of betrayal by the controversial move.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term of office officially expired in 2009, denounced Trump's peace efforts as the "slap of the century".

Abbas said he would not accept the Trump administration as a mediator in negotiations with Israel and called for an internationally led process.

Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority has stuck with the two-state solution to the conflict, with the PA's envoy to the US urging diplomats to continue down that path.

"Jerusalem is the key to peace. Without Jerusalem there can never be a two-state solution," Husam Zomlot told the J-Street conference on Monday.

"Once East Jerusalem is the capital, we will recognise and celebrate the Jewish connection to Jerusalem," he added.

Abbas has also accused Israel of destroying the 1994 Oslo peace accords, saying that Palestinians would study all strategies for a response.

Click here to view an updated list of the Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza since Friday 30 March.