US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would visit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Thursday, marking the Trump administration’s break with previous US policy on the strategic plateau.
“Today I’ll have the chance to visit the Golan Heights. 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 in Jerusalem.
President Donald Trump in 2019 recognized Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the parts of the Golan that it captured from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognized by the United Nations and most of the international community.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “Pompeo’s visit to occupied land is an active participation in the occupation.”
Israel says the Golan - which overlooks northern Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan - is a bulwark against Syria and Iranian forces.
Pompeo was also due to visit a settler winery in Psagot, a hilltop Israeli settlement near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Haaretz newspaper reported. TV footage showed American
flags and what appeared to be security personnel there, while an Israeli military helicopter landed nearby.
The US embassy in Israel declined to comment on that trip.
A year ago Pompeo announced that the United States no longer viewed Israel’s settlements as “inconsistent with international law,” in a further reversal of decades of US policy. In response, Psagot named one of its wines after Pompeo.
It is unclear whether Trump’s decision on settlements would be reversed by a future US administration under President-elect Joe Biden. However Biden is expected to take a tougher line on Israeli settlements in general.
Palestinian officials condemned Pompeo’s proposed visit.
“This visit hurts every Palestinian, and is against all international laws,” Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maayah told Reuters on Wednesday.
“We hope that things will change in the future with the American (government), and that, again, the Americans will (return to dealing) with settlements as entities against international law.”