Following media reports that outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intends to visit an Israeli settlement on an upcoming trip to the region this week, APN urges Sec. Pompeo to cancel this detrimental gesture.
The seventy-day transition period to a new administration is not the time to break with decades of bipartisan American policy and set diplomatically consequential precedents. An official visit by a US secretary of State to a West Bank settlement – the first ever – is damaging in several ways.
First, it attempts to legitimize Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Secretary Pompeo, contradicting a consensus position held by international law experts worldwide, recently stated that West Bank settlements should not be regarded as per-se a violation of international law. Regardless of the legal debate on the status of West Bank settlements, the fact that settlements are politically illegitimate is a matter of common sense and has been an axiomatic policy position of successive US administrations, Democratic and Republican alike.
Second, such a visit further alienates and rightly angers Palestinians, who view the settlements as the physical manifestation of Israeli occupation, and discredits Palestinian moderates who the US should be supporting, empowering, and encouraging to be Israel's partners in peace negotiations.
Third, it sends a message that the United States endorses violations of Palestinian rights. West Bank settlements, in general, violate the Palestinians' collective rights to self-determination, sovereignty, and liberty. The specific settlement that Secretary Pompeo reportedly decided to honor by visiting its winery, Psagot, is built on privately-owned Palestinian land, which the government of Israel seized years ago for "security purposes", and then re-purposed for the sake of constructing a settlement.
The winery of Psagot, which is fighting international boycotts on products of West Bank settlements, named a line of red wines after Pompeo, honoring his efforts to legitimize and normalize the settlements.
APN's President and CEO Hadar Susskind said: "Instead of going to a wine tasting in a settlement, Secretary Pompeo should be focused on spending his time working to help ensure a peaceful transfer of power to the incoming administration. His efforts to legitimize the illegitimate and normalize Israel's occupation of the West Bank do nothing the help bring about a better future for Israelis and Palestinians."