Pompeo Declines to Back Two-State Solution in House Testimony

(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo refused to commit to a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians in congressional testimony Wednesday as he defended the Trump administration’s moves to slash aid to Gaza and the West Bank.

Pompeo told a House Appropriations panel that the U.S. can still be a fair arbiter in helping to resolve the Middle East conflict despite Palestinian arguments that President Donald Trump has driven them from the negotiating table. Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights while cutting aid to groups such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

“We think we have some ideas that are new and fresh and different,” Pompeo said of a long-awaited peace plan devised by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. “It’s a goal founded in the facts on the ground and a realistic assessment of what will get us a good outcome.”

Asked specifically if he supported a two-state solution, Pompeo demurred, saying the administration’s vision was that “it will be the peoples of those two lands who resolve this.”

Trump’s Tweets

As in past appearances before Congress, Pompeo was repeatedly asked to defend Trump’s provocative tweets and pronouncements on issues from Syria to relations with Guatemala and China.

He declined to engage when pressed to explain Trump’s initial declaration that he was pulling all troops out of Syria, before agreeing to keep 400. Nor would he elaborate on Trump’s threats last year to cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for what he said was their failure to stop people from coming to seek asylum in the U.S.

Democrats and Republicans alike railed against the administration’s proposal to cut the State Department’s budget by more than 20 percent in fiscal 2020. The top Republican on the committee, Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky, called the budget proposal “woefully inadequate to achieve the administration’s foreign policy and national security goals.”

Pompeo responded that the amount of money spent shouldn’t be the sole guide to whether the State Department is doing its job.

“This is about reality -- not feeling good that we spent money,” Pompeo said. “I think our policy is aimed at getting an effective outcome.”

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