April 10, 2019 / 4:17 PM / 13 days ago

Pompeo will not publicly back two-state solution for Israel and Palestinians

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined on Wednesday to publicly say the Trump administration still backs a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before a Senate foreign Relations Committee hearing on the State Department budget request in Washington, U.S. April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

“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, a former Republican member of the House of Representatives, if he thought a peace agreement including one state for Israel and one state for the Palestinians was an outdated idea.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 secretary of state said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a clear path to re-election on Wednesday, and a record fifth term in office, with religious-rightist parties set to hand him a parliamentary majority, despite a close contest against his main centrist challenger, a vote tally showed.

In a rare turn during the campaign toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu alarmed Palestinians by pledging to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected. Palestinians seek a state there and in the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

That came after Trump signed a proclamation during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington on March 25, officially granting U.S. recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, a dramatic departure from decades of American policy.

The move, which Trump announced in a tweet days prior, was widely seen as an attempt to boost Netanyahu as he ran for re-election on April 9.

Israel captured the Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.

The Trump administration has been promising for many months that it would roll out a Middle East peace plan after Israel’s election.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Lesley Wroughton; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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