Pompeo's 'unprecedented' trip to the occupied West Bank

An Israeli air force Blackhawk helicopter carrying US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hovers in the settlers industrial park of Sha’ar Binyamin near the Israeli Psagot settlement in the occupied West Bank north of Jerusalem

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: You can't stand here and stare out at what's across the border and deny the central thing that President Trump recognized that previous presidents had refused to do, that this is a part of Israel, and a central part of Israel.

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 annexed in 1981.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the "tremendous friendship" of Pompeo but, mindful of the future, he spoke by phone with Biden on Tuesday, in what the premier's office called a "warm" conversation.

The secretary of state said he supports guidelines for Israeli products made in settlements to be labelled "Made in Israel" or "Product of Israel" when imported to the US.

The turnaround may be part of the PA's strategy to re-engage with the United States after President Trump's seeming defeat in the American elections.

The Abraham Accords that Israel signed with the UAE and Bahrain on September 16 also formally committed the sides to work together "to realize a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that meets the legitimate needs and aspirations of both people".

Pompeo also became the first USA top diplomat to visit a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. There, he announced new U.S. guidelines requiring all U.S. exports from Israeli controlled areas of the West Bank to be labeled as "made in Israel", in a reversal of decades-old policy that differentiated between both sides of the Green Line.

Pompeo's visit was in line with the Trump administration's stated policy and those who know him well argued that he was just doing his job.

Trump's outgoing administration has made isolating arch foe Iran a centrepiece of its regional policy.

Pompeo said a year ago that the United States no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be contrary to global law.

Condemning Mr Pompeo's announcement, Human Rights Watch said: "The Trump administration has no business trying to tar groups because they back boycotts", which it said had been used to advance social justice throughout American history.

"Imagine with (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad in control of this place, the risk of the harm to the West and to Israel", Pompeo said.

In a statement on the department's website, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "As we have made clear, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism".

Syria's foreign ministry called Mr Pompeo's visit a "provocative step", warning that "such criminal visits encourage [Israel] to continue its risky hostile approach".

The State Department announced on November 19 that it is classifying the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic and will be taking measures to block funding from organizations that support BDS.



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