Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made history Thursday by becoming the first top American diplomat to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank — as the US announced in a major policy shift that products from the “occupied” area can be labeled “Made in Israel.”
A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Pompeo’s visit to the Psagot winery near Jerusalem to reporters who were traveling with him but were not allowed to join during that part of the visit.
The West Bank winery had named one of its wines after Pompeo, a salute to his announcement last year that the Trump administration would no longer deem Israeli settlements there as violating international law, The Times of Israel reported.
“It is a blessing to be here in Judea and Samaria,” Pompeo wrote in the Psagot visitor’s book, using the Hebrew names for the West Bank area. “May I not be the last Secretary of State to visit this beautiful land.”
In a statement later, Pompeo said the US will label exports from Jewish settlements as Israeli.
“All producers within areas where Israel exercises the relevant authorities… will be required to mark goods as ‘Israel,’ ’Product of Israel,’ or ‘Made in Israel’ when exporting to the United States,” he said, The Times of Israel reported.
He said the new guidelines apply “most notably” to Area C, where Israel retains full civil and military control and where much of the West Bank settler population lives.
Yaakov Berg, owner of the Psagot Winery, said Pompeo’s support will ensure he’s remembered by Jews “100 years from now.”
“I felt like we need to honor him, to thank him, to really show some appreciation,” Berg told Agence France-Presse about the decision to name a wine after him.
“We are not thieves. We didn’t (steal) this land,” he told AFP as he categorically rejected the notion that his winery is on land where Israelis do not belong.
President-elect Joe Biden has said his administration will restore US opposition to the Israeli settlements.
Berg, like Pompeo, was not prepared to acknowledge Trump’s election defeat, saying: “We have been hoping that he will be elected to a second (term). Let’s wait and see.”
Pompeo’s stopover came as he made his way to the Golan Heights, in what will be another first for a US secretary of state, the Times of Israel reported.
President Trump last year made the controversial decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan — a move Pompeo on Thursday described as “historically important and simply a recognition of the reality.”
Earlier Thursday, Pompeo also announced another strongly pro-Israel policy — that from now on Washington would designate as “anti-Semitic” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that aims to isolate the Jewish state over its treatment of the Palestinians.
“We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US government support for such groups,” he said in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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“We want to stand with all other nations that recognize the BDS movement for the cancer that it is,” Pompeo added.
Netanyahu thanked the top US diplomat for his “unwavering support” of Israel, first as CIA director and then as secretary of state, saying that under Trump the US-Israeli relationship had “reached unprecedented heights,” according to the Israeli news outlet.
Pompeo also toured the City of David archeological site in East Jerusalem, posting images to his official Twitter account.
He had no scheduled meetings with Palestinian leaders, who have strongly opposed Trump’s stance on the enduring conflict, including Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
With Post wires