Thu, 03 Dec 2020

Trump's Pompeo takes steps to further disenfranchise Palestinians

Voice of America
20 Nov 2020, 19:01 GMT+10

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, a first by a high-ranking U.S. official after announcing a new initiative to halt a Palestinian-led movement to internationally boycott Israel.

A State Department official told reporters, who were not allowed to accompany Pompeo, that the top U.S. diplomat went to the Psagot winery outside Jerusalem.

Pompeo also said he would go Thursday to the Golan Heights, an area Israel has occupied since capturing it from Syria in the 1967 war.

"The simple recognition of this as part of Israel, too, was a decision President Trump made that is historically important and simply a recognition of reality," Pompeo said.

Israel has built scores of settlements in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians want for their future state. Most of the international community views the settlements as a violation of international law and a barrier in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights has also not been recognized internationally. Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the territory last year.

Earlier, Pompeo said the United States will consider the movement advocating for boycotting and divesting from Israel to be anti-Semitic.

Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Pompeo said the State Department would take immediate steps to identify and halt government funding to organizations that support the effort.

Supporters of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement say it is a form of protest against Israeli occupation and is modeled after the 1980s boycott that pressured South Africa to end apartheid.

Organizers deny the BDS movement is anti-Semitic. Israel says the movement is meant to delegitimize and eliminate it.

Netanyahu and Pompeo congratulated each other for steps taken during President Donald Trump's administration that went against prior U.S. policy, including recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the movement of the U.S. Embassy there, and no longer viewing Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as unlawful.

Netanyahu, who said Thursday the U.S.-Israel relationship reached "unprecedented heights" during the Trump administration, also highlighted Israel's recent agreements normalizing relations with Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.

Pompeo said Wednesday before joint talks with Netanyahu and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani that the agreements "tell malign actors like the Islamic Republic of Iran that their influence in the region is waning and that they are ever more isolated and shall forever be until they change their direction."

Bahrain and Israel said they would open embassies, develop online visa systems and begin weekly flights between the countries.

Alzayani, who led Bahrain's first official visit to Israel, said normalization brings "a warm peace that will deliver clear benefits to our peoples."

Netanyahu said Alzayani's first visit to Israel "marks another important milestone on the road to peace between our two countries and peace in the region. The peace between Israel and Bahrain is built on solid foundations of mutual appreciation and shared interest."

Pompeo's trip to Israel is the latest stop of his multi-nation tour, visiting allies in Europe and the Middle East.

The rest of Pompeo's trip includes stops in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He made earlier visits to France and Turkey.

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