(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday dismissed opponents of President Trump’s Mideast peace proposals as “the same critics who have failed for 70 years” to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
While the administration was urging the Palestinians to sit down and seek a negotiated settlement to the conflict, he told reporters en route to London, the Palestinian leadership “called for a day of rage.”
Asked what he would say to those who call the plan “dead on arrival,” Pompeo replied, “These are the same critics who have failed for 70 years.”
“The Palestinian people have an enormous opportunity for a better life for the Palestinian people. And I watched the Palestinian leadership yesterday. They called for a day of rage, and we called for diplomacy to sit down at the table and have a negotiated resolution to a longstanding conflict.”
“This plan provides for real security, and it reflects the reality on the ground for the Israelis, and it reflects an enormous opportunity – $50 billion [in proposed investment in the Palestinian areas] – and the Palestinian leadership called for a day of rage.”
Pompeo indicated that the Trump plan was not a take-it-or-leave it offer to the Palestinians, but rather a strong base from which to negotiate.
“They now have an offer on the table,” he said. “They are free to come up with a counter offer, if that’s what they think is appropriate. We’d look forward to that. We’re prepared to listen, and I know the Israelis will be prepared to sit down and negotiate on the basis of the vision that the president laid out.”
The plan envisages a four-year negotiation period.
“We’ve given them plenty of time,” Pompeo told Israel’s Channel 13 News television earlier. “They don’t have to do this today or tomorrow or next week.”
“I hope that they’ll evaluate it. I hope they’ll take it seriously. I hope they’ll then present a counteroffer if what’s presented isn’t acceptable,” he said. “That’s how this ought to move forward, and I hope that they’ll do that.”
Over the four-year period, Israel has agreed not to build any new settlements in areas contemplated to become part of a Palestinian state, or to expand existing settlements and enclaves – which under the plan would be brought under Israeli sovereignty.
For its part, the plan requires the Palestinian leadership during that four-year negotiation period to halt all legal actions against Israel in international courts; end all attempts to join international bodies unless Israel gives its consent; and end the controversial practice of paying stipends to the families of Palestinians jailed for carrying out terror attacks or killed while carrying out attacks.
Pompeo cautioned that outright rejection of the Trump plan by Palestinian leaders would be an enormous missed opportunity.
“It gives us a real opportunity,” he told reporters flying with him. “Whether that opportunity comes along again in – well, you’re younger than me – in our generation or the next one, we really do hope that there’ll be this chance. We’re prepared to do our part to help the parties resolve this.”
The last substantive effort towards a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians was the Oslo process, agreed upon and signed at the Clinton White House 27 years ago.
Israel handed over to a newly-created Palestinian Authority (P.A.) parts of the West Bank and most of the Gaza Strip (completing the withdrawal from all of Gaza in 2005.)
Despite assertions to the contrary Oslo did not lay the groundwork for an independent Palestinian state. Then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the last speech he gave to the Knesset before his 1995 assassination, spelled out Israel’s vision for a future Palestinian “entity” which he described as something “less than a state.” (The first U.S. president to publicly declare support for an independent Palestinian state was President George W. Bush, in 2002.)
The interim Oslo accords did not tackle the thorniest issues in the conflict, including the future of Israeli settlements in areas claimed by the Palestinians, refugees’ “right of return,” and the question of Jerusalem. Those “final status” issues were set aside for future negotiation, in the hope that limited Palestinian self-rule and bilateral security cooperation would over time help to build the trust needed for both sides to make future compromises.
Instead, what trust existed was shaken and ultimately virtually destroyed as a result of waves of violence and terrorism, the “second intifada,” Hamas’ violent seizure of the Gaza Strip from Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction in 2007, and its use as a launchpad for rocket and other attacks on Israel, drawing retaliatory Israeli military operations.
Palestinians pointed to Israeli security barriers and the security blockade of Gaza, and charged that settlement growth was designed to undermine its future statehood aspirations. Over the past two years the P.A. has refused to cooperate with the U.S. at all, angered by Trump’s support for Israel and particularly his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.