middle east

Pompeo visits Israeli-occupied West Bank and Golan Heights

SMA News – West Bank \ Golan

Mike Pompeo on Thursday became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit an Israeli West Bank settlement and the Golan Heights, in a show of solidarity that led Palestinians to accuse him of helping to cement Israeli control over occupied territory.

 Pompeo’s trips came during the Israeli leg of what may be his last tour of the Middle East in the final months of President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Palestinians have indicated they would resume relations as normal with Washington once President-elect Joe Biden takes office, widely seen as a gesture of goodwill towards his future administration.

On Thursday morning Pompeo appeared alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said both Pompeo and Trump were long-standing friends of Israel.

Pompeo said the two leaders discussed Iran, the perceived threat of which has shifted political fault lines in the region, uniting Israel and Gulf Arab states in fear of Tehran.

He also issued guidelines for Israeli products made in settlements to be labelled “Made in Israel” or “Product of Israel” when exported to the United States, removing the distinction between goods made within Israel and those produced in occupied territory.

Pompeo’s visit departed from past policy that had kept top U.S. officials away from settlements, which Palestinians view as obstacles to a viable future state.

Pompeo later flew to the Golan Heights, a mountainous and strategic plateau that overlooks Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

“I very much wanted to come here on this trip to tell the world that we have it right. That we, the United States has it right. That Israel has it right,” Pompeo said from a hilltop looking into an area of the Syrian Golan that was until recently controlled by militias fighting the Syrian civil war.

“Each nation has the right to defend itself in its own sovereignty,” he said.

Such signs of support left many Israelis backing Trump’s bid for re-election.

But Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi accused Pompeo of using Trump’s final weeks in office “to set yet another illegal precedent, violate international law and perhaps to advance his own future political ambitions”.


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