In a major show of support for Israel, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited Golan Heights, following a tour of a similarly occupied settlement in the West Bank.
Ahead of his visit to the disputed area, Pompeo announced that products coming from the West Bank, which Palestine and many other international organizations do not recognize as part of Israel, will be labeled “made in Israel.” He also revealed the State Department will withdraw any government support from organizations that support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement against the state of Israel.
“The simple recognition of this as part of Israel … was a decision President Trump made that is historically important and simply a recognition of reality,” Pompeo said of Golan Heights while visiting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
Pompeo’s visit to the occupied settlements in Israel has sparked outrage, including from Palestine. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Golan visit represents “active participation in this occupation.”
While Pompeo made it clear that Golan Heights is “a part of Israel,” the area is recognized by the international law as part of Syria, having been occupied in the 1967 war. The US declared Israel’s sovereignty over the territory last year.
Pompeo blasted those who want to see the area “returned” to Syria.
“Imagine with [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad in control of this place, the risk of the harm to the West and to Israel,” he said.
Pompeo’s visit and comments follow years of unprecedented support for Israel from the US, which has included moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and a peace deal announced earlier this year between Bahrain, Israel, and the United Emirate States.
The moves, however, have come at a price; Palestine has rejected the peace deal, which is viewed as highly favorable to Israel in terms of territory.
“We say 1,000 times: no, no, no, to the deal of the century,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who cut off contact with the US, said. Abbas reiterated his rejection of the deal in September, telling the United Nations General Assembly that a “genuine peace process” should be launched by an international conference next year.
“It should aim to end the occupation and grant the Palestinian people their freedom and independence in their own state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and settle final-status issues,” he said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has also rejected the potential of peace talks, unless Golan Heights – which he considers “occupied Syrian land” – is returned from Israel.