US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday became the first-ever US top diplomat to visit an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. The trip to Israel was a parting show of solidarity with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the outgoing Trump administration. The two governments have shared close ties throughout the years. Pompeo met with Netanyahu and then travelled to the West Bank to visit a settler winery, which has a blend named after him. The secretary of state said he supports guidelines for Israeli products made in settlements to be labelled "Made in Israel" or "Product of Israel" when imported to the US. The move would remove the distinction between products made within Israel and those produced in occupied territory.
It was a controversial move, but one in line with the Trump administration’s policy. In 2019, Pompeo broke with decades of American foreign policy to announce that the US under Trump no longer viewed Israel’s settlements as "inconsistent with international law." But Palestinians and much of the world regard those settlements as illegal under international law. Pompeo also visited the Golan Heights, a strategic territory the Jewish state seized from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967. The US under Trump has recognized it as part of Israel. Pompeo said on Thursday that the recognition was "historically important and simply a recognition of the reality."
Palestinians criticized Pompeo, saying the US was helping Israel to cement its control over West Bank lands. The Palestinian leadership cut ties with Trump White House three years ago, accusing it of pro-Israel bias. Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi said Pompeo was using Trump’s final weeks in office "to set yet another illegal precedent, violate international law and perhaps to advance his own future political ambitions."
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