Pompeo’s Planned Visit to Jewish Settlement Slammed by Palestinians as ‘Provocation’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center, speaks after laying a wreath at the tomb of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, inside the Mukataa government compound, in the the West Bank city of Ramallah as Palestinians commemorate the 14th anniversary of his death, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
AP/Nasser Shiyoukhi

The Palestinian leadership has blasted U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned visit to a Jewish settlement in the West Bank during his visit to Israel next week as a “provocation.” They added it was an “act of aggression” that proves the U.S. is “complicit in the occupation.”

“It is a provocation against the Palestinian people and their leadership,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, said on Sunday.

“This is a dangerous precedent that confirms this administration’s blatant disregard of international resolutions,” Abu Rudaineh said according to the Jerusalem Post. Israel, he went on, “is trying to benefit from the unlimited support of the current U.S. administration, which has provided it with all possible support for the sake of settlement expansion and the takeover of more Palestinian lands.”

Pompeo’s planned visit to the Psagot settlement north of Jerusalem “means that this American administration has become a fundamental partner in the occupation of the Palestinian lands. Neither this visit nor any U.S. support for Israeli settlements in Palestinian lands can give legitimacy to the settlements or change the fact that they are doomed to end,” Abu Rudaineh concluded

The term “Palestinian lands” is a misnomer since there is no state of Palestine and neither was there in the past. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordanian occupation in the 1967 defensive Six Day War. 

Mahmoud Aloul, deputy chairman of the ruling Fatah faction, said the planned visit, while not surprising, once again proves that the Trump administration is “complicit in the occupation” and is attempting to “legalize” the settlements.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh also condemned Pompeo’s move as “deplorable” and echoed Aloul’s and Abu Rudaineh’s comments, saying, “This dangerous precedent legalizes settlements and is a blow to [international] legitimacy and UN [resolutions].”

The Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group slammed Pompeo for a “new American aggression against the Palestinians and Arabs.”

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group said that the visit underscored the Trump administration’s “disregard for all international laws and conventions.”

PLO official Hanan Ashrawi tweeted: “Listen very carefully @SecPompeo: There is no second term for Trump, the American people. There is no second coming for you in Palestine, the Palestinian people. There is no second chance for war criminals.”

“Now take your passionate intensity [and] slouch back home!” she wrote.

It would be the first time an American secretary of state has made an official state visit to an Israeli settlement, and would mark a dramatic departure from U.S. policy, which until the Trump administration, has designated the West Bank and the Golan Heights as “occupied territories.”

In January, Pompeo denounced a longstanding State Department legal opinion declaring Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be a violation of international law as “deeply flawed.” Months earlier, he issued a more tempered declaration, stating the U.S. “no longer recognizes Israeli settlements as per se inconsistent with international law.”

The U.S. State Department said Pompeo’s visit to the Jewish state, which will last three days, will constitute a kind of “legacy visit” to highlight key policy decisions that the Trump administration has made with regards to Israel. Ravid added that for Pompeo, the visit likely also has significance domestically ahead of a possible presidential bid in 2024.

After arriving in Israel on Wednesday, Pompeo will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.

Pompeo, who will be accompanied by his wife, will then pay a private visit to the Christian baptismal site “Qasr al-Yehud” near Jericho in the West Bank, considered to be Christianity’s third holiest site.

The Psagot settlement is famous for its winery, which made headlines this week after going to court against the European Union’s policy of labeling products made by Israelis in the settlements. One of the winery’s main investors is Jewish-American businessman and owner of Duty Free America, Simon Falic. Falic is also a donor to several politicians in the Republican Party as well as to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

After Pompeo disavowed the Jimmy Carter-era memo deeming settlements illegal, the owner of the Psagot winery named a new series of wine after the secretary of state and sent him a case of the wine.

During his tenure as secretary of state, Pompeo has attended events organized by Falic, including the evangelical Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, Iowa. According to blogger Joel Rosenberg, Falic called on Pompeo during the event to help Israel apply sovereignty over the West Bank.

Pompeo will also visit the Golan Heights during his visit. In March of last year, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau. The Israeli government responded by announcing the establishment of a new town called “Trump Heights.”

Pompeo in the past also broke from U.S. policy by addressing the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem. He also became the first top American diplomat to make an official visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.In October 2017, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attended a business forum in an official capacity in the West Bank settlement town of Ariel, the first such visit from a U.S. government representative.

The left-wing group J Street slammed Friedman’s attendance.

“By making an official public appearance at an event in an Israeli West Bank settlement, Ambassador Friedman once again crossed a major, longstanding red line of bipartisan US policy,” J-Street Vice President of Government Affairs Dylan Williams said at the time.

“The Trump administration continues to send a clear message of support for the settlement movement and the agenda of the Israeli right,” he said.

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