US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a controversial visit to an Israeli settlement on the West Bank during a recent Middle East visit. The visit comes just months before the conclusion of his term in office. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtajjeh was outraged. Meanwhile, Israel and Bahrain are moving ahead to open embassies in each others’ nations.
Israel FM Ashkenazi: ‘It’s Time for Peace’
Israel and Bahrain plan to open their embassies by the end of the year. Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi announced the plan in Jerusalem. During the first-ever Bahrain Foreign Minister’s visit to Israel, he said: “The region has seen too many conflicts and wars. It is time for peace.”
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Raschid al-Sajani said Ashkenazi also wanted to participate in a regional security forum in Bahrain in December.
In both countries, there is a clear will to let the cooperation work. According to Al-Sajani, free travel between Bahrain and Israel will be facilitated from December 1st via an electronic visa system.
Before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who is involved in the talks in Israel — Al-Sajani called for the resumption of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. He also reaffirmed Bahrain’s support for a two-state solution.
Netanyahu: ‘Bridges of Peace’ and ‘Malicious Actors’
With regard to the agreements with Bahrain, Netanyahu emphasized that “bridges of peace” would be built that many would cross in the future. Pompeo also said the agreements showed “malicious actors like Iran that their influence is shrinking and they are becoming more isolated”.
Israel signed agreements on establishing diplomatic relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Washington in September. The Gulf States promise economic advantages but forge an alliance with Israel against their common arch-enemy Iran. The US had mediated the rapprochement.
During his visit to Israel, Pompeo was the first US Secretary of State to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. He arrived at the Psagot winery near Ramallah on Thursday. Afterward, Pompeo announced that the US would lift the labeling requirement for products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Products manufactured there can now carry the label “Made in Israel” in the USA. The latter was in accordance with “with our reality-based foreign policy approach.”
The UN classifies the areas as occupied.
Palestinian PM Shtayyeh: Pompeo Visit Sets a ‘Dangerous Precedent’
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called the visit to the winery a “dangerous precedent” that “legalizes settlements.”.
At a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Pompeo also said the US wanted to classify the international movement for a boycott of Israel (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, or BDS) as anti-Semitic.
Activists from the Israeli human rights organization Peace Now called Pompeo’s performance a “pathetic attempt” to undermine the prospect of peace by normalizing settlements.
Pompeo’s travel plan also included the Golan Heights, which Israel had conquered from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel’s claim to the area was recognized by the Trump administration last year. “President Trump’s decision that it belongs to Israel is historical and simply corresponds to reality,” said Pompeo.
Netanyahu said his people were grateful to the Trump administration and Pompeo personally for the decisions made in recent years, such as recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and the mediation of normalization agreements with Arab states.
Pompeo to Israelis: ‘We have Achieved Incredible Things’
Pompeo, during his likely final visit to Jerusalem, said with great satisfaction: “Peace, more growth and fewer risks for people worldwide, here in the region and in the homeland of the Jewish people – we have achieved this together, and it is historical.” He continued: “You can be proud of yourself. I know President Trump is proud. We have achieved incredible things.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu warned — without explicitly referring to the next US administration — against a less harsh stance on Iran. Israel will not give a “free path for Iran’s support for terrorism, for its aggression in the region and above all for its plans to develop nuclear weapons to destroy Israel and conquer the Middle East. The tyrants of Tehran deserve none,” said the Israeli prime minister.