Washington Post: Middle East peace plan ‘may be rejected'

Secretary tries to tamper down expectations

By Kate Sullivan, Kevin Bohn and Sarah Westwood, CNN
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently acknowledged widespread skepticism of the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan, but said he hoped people would give it a chance.

Pompeo described the plan as "very detailed, one might argue unexecutable," and said it "may be rejected," according to an audio recording obtained by CNN of a private meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Tuesday.

The Washington Post first reported Pompeo's comments.

"It may be rejected," Pompeo said. "It 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 said the State Department has given "quite a bit of consideration" to what it would do if the plan "doesn't gain traction," and said there are "no guarantees that we're the ones that unlock it."

"We hope that there's enough vision here, enough space, that lots of countries will see this as an opportunity to really engage in this process," Pompeo said.

President Donald Trump, when asked Sunday about the Post's reporting on Pompeo's comments, said, "Well, let's see what happens."

"We're doing our best to help the Middle East to get a peace plan, and (Pompeo) may be right, I think most people would say that. I think we have a good chance, but we'll see what happens."

"Most people think it can't be done, I think it probably can," Trump said. "But as I say often, we'll see what happens."

Trump administration officials have offered few details about the political portion of the long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. The effort is being led by the President's son-in-law and White House senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Kushner is expected to discuss the economic portion of the Middle East peace plan at a conference in Bahrain this month. The White House previously announced the economic portion is aimed at encouraging investing capital in the West Bank, Gaza, and the region.

The plan discusses four major components: infrastructure, industry, empowering and investing in people, and governance reforms to help make the area as appealing as possible to investors.

Pompeo 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."

Pompeo noted the unveiling of the long-awaited plan has been delayed and said, "This has taken us longer to roll out our plan than I had originally thought it might -- to put it lightly."

"Everyone will find something to hate about the proposal, everything will find something I think, including the Palestinians, will find something that they say that's something to build upon," Pompeo said.

"Then the big question is can we get enough space that we can have a real conversation about how to build this out," Pompeo said.

Malcolm Hoenlein, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which hosted the event, told CNN he and other participants did not take Pompeo's remarks as critical of the prospects of the Trump administration's peace plan.

"He was citing what people had raised," Hoenlein told CNN, and that people should give the proposal due consideration once it is unveiled.

Hoenlein characterized Pompeo's message as: "People should cool it and give it a chance," and "don't fall" for arguments already being made.

He praised the speech, given to 50 heads of various Jewish organizations encompassing various political viewpoints, as thoughtful.

The State Department's special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, who also attended the meeting, said he thought Pompeo "provided a hopeful assessment over the prospect of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians," according to the Post.

"It was an excellent briefing that was very well received by the conference," he said in a statement from the State Department to the Post.

The State Department had no immediate comment to CNN.

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