Pompeo becomes first top US diplomat to visit Israeli settlement, labels boycotts anti-Semitic
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first top U.S diplomat to visit an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank region on Thursday and labeled a boycott movement anti-Semitic, moves that are likely to anger Palestinian leaders while ingratiating the Trump administration with Israel’s government.
The Associated Press and Reuters reported that the stop at the Psagot winery near Jerusalem comes ahead of Pompeo’s plans to visit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Reporters traveling with Pompeo were not allowed to accompany the secretary to the settlement.
“For a long time, the State Department took the wrong view of settlements,” Pompeo said in a joint press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. “It took a view that didn’t recognize the history of this special place. And instead, now, today the United States Department of State stands strongly to the recognition that settlements can be done in a way that are lawful and appropriate and proper.”
“The simple recognition of this [the Golan] as part of Israel, too, was a decision President Trump made that is historically important and simply a recognition of reality,” Pompeo added.
Pompeo during Thursday’s press conference also called out the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which urges countries and businesses to avoid business with Israel and its government over the treatment of Palestinians, as anti-Semitic.
“Today I want to make one announcement with respect to a decision by the State Department that we will regard the global anti-Israel BDS campaign as anti-Semitic,” Pompeo said. “I know this sounds simple to you, Mr. Prime Minister, it seems – it seems like a statement of fact, but I want you to know that we will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct, and withdraw U.S. government support for such groups. The time is right.”
The secretary’s remarks follow years of pro-Israel policy pursued by the Trump administration, largely at the expense of its relationship with Palestinian authorities, who signaled no interest in agreeing to a peace deal floated by the White House in January.
Among the actions taken by the Trump administration include the movement of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as the brokerage of historic agreements between Bahrain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates resulting in the two countries normalizing relations with Israel for the first time. Netanyahu is also seen as a close political ally of the president.
Netanyahu during the press conference praised the work done between the U.S. and Israel over the last four years under President Trump.
“Over the last four years, under President Trump and his remarkable team led by you and Ambassador Friedman and Jared Kushner and others, Israel’s alliance with the U.S. has reached unprecedented heights,” Netanyahu said.
Pompeo, Netanyahu added Thursday, had worked hard to prove “that Israel has no better friend in the world than the United States of America” throughout his tenure as secretary of State.
President-elect Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu earlier this week as Trump continues to challenge the results of the election.
Biden thanked the prime minister for his congratulations and reiterated “steadfast” support for Israel’s security, its future as a Jewish and democratic state and pledged to work closely on many challenges confronting the two countries, according to a readout of the call released by his transition team.
— Updated at 8:34 a.m.