Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank during his trip to the country next week, two months before the U.S. President Donald Trump must transfer power to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.
Pompeo’s scheduled visit at a vineyard will be the first visit to a West Bank settlement by a U.S. secretary of State. He is also scheduled to be the first secretary of state to visit the Golan Heights.
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In 2019, Pompeo reversed long-standing policy to announce that the settlements in the West Bank were “not per se inconsistent with international law.” That same year, the Trump administration recognized the Golan Heights, an area conquered from Syria in 1967, as part of Israel.
The trip was first reported by the Walla News site, and sources confirmed its details to Haaretz.
The Palestinians and most of the international community say the settlements undermine hopes for a two-state solution by taking over land sought for a Palestinian state.
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On Friday, Palestinian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Husam Zomlot, who formerly served as amassador to the United States, tweeted: "Unthinkable yet unsurprising. Israeli colonial settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are illegal before and after Pompeo’s visit. All the visit does is make the Trump administration complicit with war crimes."
The Psagot winery on Pompeo’s itinerary made headlines last year when the European Court of Justice ruled that products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights must be labeled as such, after the winery asked a French court to rescind that requirement. The ruling stated that the product’s label must say goods originate in Israel settlements, in order to keep from misleading consumers.
The U.S. State Department condemned the ruling, saying it was suggestive of “anti-Israel bias,” and shortly after, Pompeo declared that Israeli settlements were not necessarily illegal under international law.
According to an article in Haaretz by Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, the settlement of Psagot, east of Ramallah, was erected on 550 dunams (138 acres) of private land seized from Palestinian owners. The Psagot winery stands on a plot owned by the Quran family.
In the final days of former President Barack Obama’s administration, the U.S. allowed the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution declaring the settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law, declining to use its veto power.
Jack Khoury contributed to this report.