US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited an Israeli settlement on the West Bank. He arrived at an Israeli winery near the Palestinian city of Ramallah at the beginning of the afternoon. Pompeo is the prime American minister to a settlement in occupied territory.
The visit is controversial, because according to the international community, the Israeli settlements are illegal. But under President Donald Trump, the United States no longer sees it that way. The US even announced today that imports from the settlements should henceforth have made in Israel on the label.
Over 600,000 Israelis live in more than a hundred settlements on the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. Nearly 3 million Palestinians live in the area. On this map you can see where the settlements are:
From the Palestinian side there is a protest against the arrival of Pompeo. A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas called the trip “an active participation in the occupation”. There are also several demonstrations against the arrival of the US Secretary.
Pompeo also travelled later in the day to the Golan Heights occupied by Israel. That is also a first: none of his predecessors visited the area, which Israel conquered in Syria in 1967. Pompeo announced the visit at a press conference in Jerusalem.
Last year, the United States recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, as the first country after Israel itself. Pompeo today called this decision of historical importance and “a recognition of reality”. The rest of the world considers the heights as occupied territory.
This morning Pompeo also announced further action against the Palestinians boycott movement BDS. This abbreviation stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, which refers to the ways in which supporters want to protest against Israel. According to Pompeo, the US will henceforth regard the BDS movement as anti-Semitic and will make public support for organisations participating in it impossible.
Pompeo is expected to stay in Israel until tomorrow, for what is probably his last visit during this reign. Yesterday he spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrains Foreign Minister, who was visiting Israel for the first time. Following Trumps mediation, Bahrain entered into diplomatic relations with Israel earlier this year, along with the United Arab Emirates and Sudan.
According to some American media, Pompeos visit is also a way of getting in the spotlight for the presidential elections of 2024.