Pompeo to visit West Bank settlement on Israel trip
Mike Pompeo next week will become the first US secretary of state to visit one of Israel's settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, which are considered illegal by most of the world, reports said Thursday.
Pompeo will visit the Psagot winery in the West Bank and also be the first secretary of state to travel to the Golan Heights, whose annexation by Israel was recognised by President Donald Trump, Israeli newspaper Haaretz and news site Axios reported.
The State Department did not immediately confirm the stops. In a statement Tuesday, it said only that Pompeo would visit Israel and meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Pompeo's trip comes two months before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, a past critic of settlements who has pledged to put more diplomatic effort into creating a Palestinian state.
Read more: Israel expedites construction in occupied East Jerusalem amid rumours of 'Biden settlement freeze'
The visit comes exactly one year after Pompeo said that the United States did not consider Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory to be illegal, putting Washington at odds with UN Security Council resolutions and virtually all other countries except Israel.
The Psagot winery was at the center of a dispute as it unsuccessfully challenged a European decision to put a label on all products that come from settlements on occupied land.
Axios and Haaretz pointed out that Psagot later rolled out a wine label named after Pompeo in tribute to his stance.
Aaron David Miller, a veteran US diplomat in the Middle East who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tweeted that Pompeo's visit would continue his run as "America's worst-ever" secretary of state.
"This isn't about Trump or Bibi's politics; it's about Pompeo and 2024," he wrote, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.
Pompeo has made little secret of his aspirations for higher office and has frequently pointed to his support of Israel, a major cause for his Republican Party's evangelical Christian base.
Pompeo has backed Trump as he refuses to concede but Netanyahu has congratulated Biden, who has known the Israeli leader for many years.
More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in constructions considered illegal under international law.
President Trump broke with decades of US practice by not criticising Jewish settlement construction in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem or the occupied West Bank.Agencies contributed to this report.
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