by: Ilse Strauss
Friday, 20 November 2020 | US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday wrapped up a highly eventful visit to Israel filled with unprecedented stops, groundbreaking statements and landmark announcements.
The US secretary of state’s three-day stop in the Jewish state—part of a 10-day diplomatic journey across Europe and the Middle East—kicked off on Thursday morning with a meeting and joint press statement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which served as the stage for Pompeo’s first momentous declaration of the day.
Dealing a potentially fatal blow to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, Pompeo told the press: “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.”
Slamming BDS as a “cancer,” Pompeo vowed to immediately crack down on groups affiliated with the movement and “withdraw US government support for such groups. The time is right.”
Netanyahu hailed the decision as “simply wonderful.”
Pompeo later released a statement ratifying the announcement, adding that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”
Following the press conference—and some sightseeing at the City of David archeological site—Pompeo left Jerusalem for the Psagot Winery tucked into the hills of Samaria, marking the first time in US history that a secretary of state visited so-called contested territory under Israeli control during an official trip.
Since 1967, all US leaders—bar the Trump administration—have treated Judea and Samaria as well as the Golan Heights as contested territory, and purposefully steered clear of these areas for fear of eliciting a political firestorm.
“It is a blessing to be here in Judea and Samaria,” Pompeo wrote in the Psagot visitor’s book, opting to use the biblical name for what the world calls the “West Bank,” the Times of Israel reports.
“May I not be the last Secretary of State to visit this beautiful land,” he added.
The US secretary of state’s historic visit comes a year after he scrapped a 1978 State Department legal opinion deeming Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as “inconsistent with international law” and 10 months after the Trump peace plan gave Israel the nod of approval to apply sovereignty to nearly 30% of Judea and Samaria, while the remaining 70% would be earmarked for a future Palestinian state.
Then, in yet another historic first, Pompeo made his way to the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau that Syria claims as its own, as the first US secretary of state to visit the contested area since President Donald Trump announced that the US would break with decades of tradition to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in March last year.
Touring the plateau aboard a Blackhawk helicopter, Pompeo lauded his president’s decision. “You can’t…stare out at what’s across the border and deny the central thing that President Donald Trump recognized…Imagine with [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad in control of this place, the risk of the harm to the West and to Israel.”
Peering out over the Golan Heights, Pompeo affirmed: “This is a part of Israel and [a] central part of Israel.”
With the day almost done and the US secretary of state preparing to jet off to his next destination, Pompeo had one more landmark announcement to make.
Breaking with a longstanding policy, Pompeo said in a statement that Israeli goods produced in Judea and Samaria should henceforth be labelled as “Israel,” “Product of Israel” or “Made in Israel” as opposed to “Made in the West Bank” when exporting such goods to the US.
“Today, the Department of State is initiating new guidelines to ensure that country of origin markings of Israeli and Palestinian goods are consistent with our reality-based foreign policy approach,” the statement read.
The US policy requiring goods produced in Judea and Samaria to be marked as “Made in the West Bank” has been in force since 1967. The Obama Administration reinforced the directive in 2016, warning that any products labelled as “Made in Israel” would be liable for fines.
During his joint press conference with the Israeli prime minister earlier on Thursday morning, Pompeo hailed the warm friendship between Israel and the US. “President Trump, I know, is proud of the work that we have done alongside of you,” he told Netanyahu. “We’ve done incredible things; it’s remarkable.”
Pompeo is right. The list of “incredible things” achieved is indeed a long one, including US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a US embassy in the City of Gold, to name but two. But perhaps yesterday’s visit from the US secretary of state, the symbolic stops and the landmark announcements will go down as yet another incredible thing in Israel and the US’s friendship.
Posted on November 20, 2020
Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 20, 2020)
Photo Credit: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem/flickr.com
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