Pompeo to visit Golan Heights, West Bank settlement on trip to Israel: report
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit the Golan Heights and an Israeli settlement in the West Bank during his travel to Israel next week, Axios reported.
Pompeo will be the first secretary of State to visit those territories, which are considered by the international community illegally occupied by Israel.
Pompeo is considered to be pursuing a potential run for the 2024 presidential Republican ticket and his planned itinerary to visit the Golan Heights and the West Bank provides the secretary an opportunity to reinforce his role in the Trump administration’s policy shifts on Israel.
President Trump formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in March 2019 in a reversal of decades of U.S. policy that considered the territory occupied since Israel captured it from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Axios reported that Pompeo is expected to visit a winery in the Psagot settlement in the West Bank, which was earlier targeted among European Union efforts to label Israeli products from these areas as coming from occupied territory.
Pompeo’s trip to the West Bank also follows the Trump administration’s reversal last month to lift restrictions on U.S. investment on science, research and agricultural projects that take place in Israeli settlements.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman announced that decision at a ceremony in the West Bank settlement of Ariel alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Those policy decisions are part of the larger campaign by the Trump administration over the president’s four years in office that formalized policy decisions that were historically withheld as part of efforts to pursue negotiations for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
This includes formal recognition by the U.S. of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. embassy to the city; allowing American citizens born in Israel to include Jerusalem, Israel, on their passports as place of birth; and pursuing diplomatic relations with Israel between Arab- and Muslim-majority nations that were withheld absent a deal with the Palestinians.
“There’s a mad dash for the finish to try to finalize what they’ve been trying to do for four years,” said Daniel Kurtzer, professor of Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton and who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel between 2001 and 2005.
“These are all on their to-do list to just make it very hard for the Biden administration to get us back to a normal policy in the region,” he added.
President-elect Joe Biden has committed to keeping the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and has also said that he would not condition aid to Israel, although the incoming president is expected to pursue efforts to reengage with the Palestinians whose diplomatic ties to the Trump administration were severed in 2018.
Pompeo’s visit to Israel is part of a 10-day trip to Europe and the Middle East. Beginning on Friday he will travel to France, Turkey and Georgia before arriving in Israel. He will then visit the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo notified Congress on Monday that the U.S. has approved the UAE purchasing more than $23 billion in advanced defense capabilities, including 50 F-35 stealth fighter jets.
The defense deal was made as part of negotiations establishing diplomatic ties between Israel and the UAE and that included Israel suspending plans to annex territory in the West Bank.