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Pompeo makes unprecedented visits to Israeli-occupied West Bank and Golan Heights

Top News2020-11-21

Mike Pompeo on Thursday became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit an Israeli West Bank settlement and the Golan Heights.

The visits came a year after Pompeo 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".

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.

These and other decisions were greeted with dismay by the Palestinians, who accused the Trump administration of consistent pro-Israel bias.

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 occupied territory.

Pompeo's visit departed from past policy that had kept top U.S. officials away from settlements, which Palestinians view as obstacles to a viable future state.

The unprecedented visit of a U.S. secretary of state was reported to leave many Israelis backing Trump's bid for re-election. However, Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi thought Pompeo's visit set yet another illegal precedent, violated international law and perhaps aimed to advance his own future political ambitions.


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