The US secretary of state is in the Israeli-occupied territories to discuss Tel Aviv’s plan to annex Palestinian land under a controversial plan by US President Donald Trump, among other topics.
Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel on Wednesday on his first foreign trip since Washington began enforcing a lockdown against the new coronavirus outbreak.
Shortly after arrival, he held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is scheduled to be sworn into office again on Thursday. The top US diplomat is also set to sit down for talks with opposition leader Benny Gantz.
Pompeo had earlier outlined the talking points of the meetings in remarks to Israel Hayom daily. “This meeting is important enough to hold face to face,” he said.
In a statement alongside Pompeo, Netanyahu claimed the new Israeli administration presents an opportunity “to promote peace and security based on the understandings I reached with President Trump in my last visit in Washington.”
In turn, Pompeo voiced support for Israel’s atrocities in the occupied Palestinian territories, saying the regime had the “right to defend” itself.
Prior to his arrival, clashes broke out between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. A Palestinian teenager was killed amid the skirmishes in the city of al-Khalil (Hebron).
In January, Trump outlined the main points of a self-styled plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Palestinians have already rejected what Trump has called the “deal of the century.”
The scheme proposed Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley and about 30 percent of the Palestinian territory of the West Bank, including the settlements that the regime has set up there since occupying the land in 1967. More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built in the West Bank since the occupation.
Tel Aviv has set July 1 as the earliest date on which Netanyahu could hold a vote on the annexation.
“We will discuss the best way to implement the vision for peace that the prime minister agreed to,” Pompeo said in the interview, referring to Trump’s scheme.
Pompeo, meanwhile, claimed, “We created a plan that gives a better life to the Palestinian people….”
The plan features several other hugely controversial high points, including endorsement of Trump’s outrageous recognition in December 2017 of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital.”
Palestinians — who have historically demanded that the city’s eastern part serve as the capital of their future state — stopped recognizing any intermediary role by Washington after the 2017 announcement.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), which has its headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, has invited various Palestinian factions, including the Hamas and Islamic Jihad resistance movements that are based in the Gaza Strip to discuss Tel Aviv’s annexation ambitions.
A senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post that the decision to invite the Gaza-based groups and others to the Saturday meeting served as “a warning message” to Israel and the Trump administration.
“The [PA] President [Mahmoud Abbas] wants to show that there’s a consensus among Palestinians regarding the annexation plan,” the official said.
The Gaza-based factions have called for reinforcement of resistance activities in the face of Tel Aviv’s intentions.
Hamas official Ashraf Zayed said, “We warn the occupation that the annexation decision will cause it grave damage.”
“Our people won’t allow this kind of conspiracy to pass. This step will lead to reactions that the occupation won’t be able to control,” he added.
Speaking alongside Netanyahu, Pompeo referred to Washington’s much-criticized campaign of sanctions against Iran and claimed the US had successfully reduced Iran’s resources that can be used to “harm Israel and other countries.”
Pompeo had earlier said his meetings with Israeli officials would address the “Iranian threat” and “how we will continue working together to deter them (Iranians) and prevent them from attaining nuclear weapons.”
Washington and Tel Aviv have repeatedly accused Tehran of seeking such weapons, although the Islamic Republic has clearly distanced itself from such pursuit.
Tehran has also urged Washington to rather concern itself with the nuclear arsenal owned by Tel Aviv, which is widely reported to be the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East with hundreds of atomic warheads at its disposal.
The Israeli regime has, however, avoided international scrutiny of its nuclear activities and punitive measures over its deadly aggression against Palestinians benefiting from the US’s all-out support for the regime.
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