WASHINGTON – United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that China represents a “growing challenge” to both the U.S. and Israel, and is viewed by the Trump administration as a threat to their “way of life.”
During a speech before the American Jewish Committee which held its annual conference virtually in light of the Coronavirus crisis, Pompeo attacked China for its foreign policy, and for quashing human rights within its borders, as well as for its attempt to take away the civil rights of the citizens of Hong Kong.
China, Pompeo said, “endangers all of us” with its behavior. “We all must be alert to the Chinese Communist Party’s threat to our way of life,” he cautioned. Pompeo also accused China of spreading “disinformation campaigns” in other countries.
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Pompeo’s comments come several weeks after he visited Israel and demanded the country to limit Chinese companies’ involvement in Israeli infrastructure projects. The issue of Chinese economic activity in Israel has been a source of tension between the U.S. and Israel for several years now, and the Trump administration has increased the pressure on Israel in recent months to take meaningful action on the subject.
By casting China as a threat and challenge not just to the U.S., but also to Israel, Pompeo sent a clear message that the administration will continue to put pressure on this front. Israeli officials are facing a dilemma - they do not want to anger the administration, but are concerned about the economic implications of giving up comfortable contracts with Chinese companies and becoming a partner in the U.S. trade war against China.
Pompeo also said that the Trump administration’s vision for the Middle East is the “most realistic path” to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He did not, however, refer directly to the question of Israeli annexation of settlements in the occupied West Bank, or to the prospects of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
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In addition, the secretary of state also attacked Iran and promised that the Trump administration would “never” allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Pompeo accused the Islamic republic of being the number one purveyor of antisemitism in the world today, and added that anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism.
Another speaker at the virtual conference was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said that her country’s support for Israel’s security is “non-negotiable”, and that Germany views opposition to antisemitism as a national security interest. Merkel, like Pompeo, didn’t address the issue of annexation, despite the fact that her Foreign Minister visited Jerusalem last week in order to warn Israeli officials about the diplomatic and economic consequences that such a move would likely create.