Pompeo in History-Making Settlement Visit: ‘May I Not Be the Last Sec. of State to Visit Judea and Samaria’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, L, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to make a joint statement after meeting in Jerusalem on November 19, 2020. (Photo by Maya Alleruzzo / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MAYA ALLERUZZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
MAYA ALLERUZZO/POOL/AFP via Getty

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday visited an Israeli winery in the West Bank, becoming the first secretary of state to ever visit a Jewish settlement in a move that drew Palestinian protesters to demonstrate and throw stones at soldiers outside the winery.

The visit was followed by an announcement by Pompeo the U.S. will permit imports from Israeli settlements to be labelled “Made in Israel” or “Product of Israel.”

Both moves mark a dramatic departure from U.S. policy, which until the Trump administration 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 Psagot winery visit came enroute to the Golan Heights, in another first for a U.S. Secretary of State. Last year, President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty in the Golan.

On Wednesday, after media reports emerged of the planned visit, dozens of Palestinians protested outside the winery and some threw stones at soldiers guarding the area. The radical leftwing Israeli Peace Now group also protested outside the winery as Pompeo arrived in an Israeli military helipcopter.

“It is a blessing to be here in Judea and Samaria,” Pompeo wrote in the Psagot visitor’s book, using the biblical names for the West Bank.

“May I not be the last Secretary of State to visit this beautiful land,” he wrote.

After the visit, Pompeo said the U.S. will label exports from Jewish settlements as Israeli.

Wine labels named after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo await to be put on a bottle at Israeli winemaker Yaakov Berg’s Psagot Winery, in the settlers industrial park of Sha’ar Binyamin near the Israeli Psagot settlement in the occupied West Bank north of Jerusalem on November 18, 2020. Berg’s decision to name his red blend after U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo may capture attention, but for him the hashtag on the label’s top right corner “#madeinlegality” is just as important, categorically rejecting the notion that he makes his wine on a land where Israelis don’t belong. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

“All producers within areas where Israel exercises the relevant authorities…  will be required to mark goods as ‘Israel,’ ’Product of Israel,’ or ‘Made in Israel’  when exporting to the United States,” Pompeo said.

The announcement came on the heels of another pro-Israel declaration made hours earlier by Pompeo, in which he stated that going forward, the U.S. would deem the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel as “anti-Semitic.”

“We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US government support for such groups,” Pompeo said in a joint press briefing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We want to stand with all other nations that recognize the BDS movement for the cancer that it is,” Pompeo said.

Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for his “unwavering support” of Israel, throughout his tenure as CIA director and then as secretary of state, and went on to say that under U.S. President Donald Trump the U.S.-Israeli relationship had “reached unprecedented heights.”

Pompeo also paid 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 earlier this month 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.

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.

Follow @danandeborah on Twitter.

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