Setting the course while Trump is still in office: Mike Pompeo was the first US minister to visit a settlement in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
TEL AVIV taz | The prospect must have pleased US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he paid a visit to the Psagot winery on Thursday as part of his multi-day trip to Israel. From the garden there is a view of picturesque hills under a light blue sky. The savory: The winery and the hills that stretch behind the villa are in the Palestinian Territories. Pompeo is the first high-ranking US politician to officially visit a settlement in the Occupied Territories.
It should not be a coincidence that the Foreign Minister is strengthening the ties to this winery, of all places. According to media reports, the owners, the Falic brothers, US President Donald Trump, have generously donated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and donated at least $ 5.6 million to settler organizations over the past decade. When Pompeo overturned the US position last year that the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories were violating international law, the winery created a range of wines under Pompeo’s name in his honor.
The winery was less successful before the European Court of Justice. The owners tried to overturn an EU decision requiring all products from settlements in the West Bank to be marked as such. However, the ECJ rejected the lawsuit in November 2019. For the USA, however, after his visit to Psagot, the foreign minister announced on Thursday that products from the occupied territories would be labeled as “Israeli” in future.
On his journey through the West Bank, Pompeo also made a detour to Qasr el-Yahud, a biblical baptismal site on the border with Jordan. In the afternoon he traveled on to the Golan Heights, which Israel had annexed from Syria in 1981, but which are considered occupied under international law. In March last year, the US officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the area.
The US Secretary of State’s trip to Greater Israel has enormous symbolic power
This Greater Israel trip by the US Secretary of State has enormous symbolic power. Apparently, Netanyahu’s right-wing administration and the US Secretary of State are trying to create facts before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
According to the Israeli daily Times of Israel Meanwhile, Netanyahu is also trying to get the green light from the United States to build a settlement in the Atarot industrial area in the West Bank. Just last Sunday, the government published a tender for construction companies for a new settlement in Givat Hamatos in East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu knows that Joe Biden will be much more critical of the Israeli settlement plans in the future than the previous US administration, which fulfilled the wildest settler fantasies in just a few years.
For his part, Pompeo may already have something else in mind: his own candidacy for the office of US president. Evangelical Christian Zionists make up around 25 percent of the American electorate and could thank the potential presidential candidate for the generosity in building settlements in the Holy Land in the 2024 election campaign.
Classify BDS as “anti-Semitic”
Pompeo rounded off his visit to the winery on Thursday by announcing that the US government would formally label the anti-Israel boycott movement BDS as “anti-Semitic” and take action against groups associated with it.
The visit to Israel was a balancing act for the Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Raschid al-Sajani, who also met on Wednesday with Pompeo, Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Bahrain and Israel agreed in October to normalize their relations. On Wednesday it was said that they wanted to open embassies in the other country by the end of the year.
A report by the Bahraini government shows how little support the Bahraini government has in its normalization policy towards Israel Times of Israel. Accordingly, the Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry unceremoniously twisted the truth and said that the official meetings did not take place in Jerusalem, but in Tel Aviv – apparently in order not to add fuel to the fire of the domestic opponents of the normalization agreement by mentioning Jerusalem .