Secretary of State Tillerson Using Mideast Trip to Advance U.S. Peace Plan

A U.S. official says Tillerson will be listening to regional leaders' thoughts on reaching a potential deal. 'The president is committed to trying to see if a peace is possible'

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a news conference in Cairo, Egypt February 12, 2018.

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson intends to use his trip to the Middle East to promote the Trump administration's upcoming peace plan and hear viewpoints of regional leaders on how to best promote a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tillerson, whose trip began Sunday, has already visited Egypt and is due in Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Turkey. 

A U.S. State Department official told Haaretz on Monday: "The secretary listens to the comments made to him by his interlocutors - those are comments which in some cases aren't new and in some cases that reflect more current events. We understand very well worries in the many governments throughout the region regarding what they see, what they don't see, but at the end of the day, the administration is committed, the president is committed to trying to see if a peace is possible." 

The same official explained that "the leaders with whom we all meet share with us their views and their hopes, not just their concerns, but their hopes as well, that indeed a resolution can be found.״ The official also said that "there's a common message from everyone which is the U.S. should not turn its back, that the U.S. must stay engaged, that the U.S. is the primary actor, that's a near uniform message we receive." 

Tillerson's efforts come after two months during which the Palestinian Authority has been boycotting the Trump administration and refusing to engage with it on the peace process. The administration is hoping to create Arab support for the upcoming plan, which could be unveiled in the coming months. His efforts faced a new challenge on Monday when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he is discussing plans for settlement annexation with the Trump administration - a quote which led to the publication of a sharp denial from the White House, and a quick retraction by the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.