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 what they describe as occupied territory.
Pompeo’s trips came during the Israeli leg of what may be his last tour of the Middle East.
Trump delighted Israel in 2019 by recognizing Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the area of the Golan Heights that it captured from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed, in a move that was not recognized by most of the international community.
Last year, Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, broke with decades of U.S. foreign policy to announce that the United States under Trump no longer viewed Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as “inconsistent with international law”.
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 so called occupied territory.
Copyright 2020 Thomson/Reuters.