Palestinian premier Mohammed Shtayyeh has said that a planned visit next week by the US secretary of state to an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank would set a “dangerous precedent”.
Mike Pompeo would become the first US secretary of state to visit one of the settlements, which are considered illegal by most of the international community.
The visit planned for next week is a way to “legitimise the settlements” and creates “a dangerous precedent that violates international law”, Shtayyeh said on Friday, quoted by the Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Axios news website reported the top diplomat will land in Israel on Wednesday and is expected to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials.
The trip aims to highlight US President Donald Trump administration’s policy shifts on Israel, Axios reported.
Pompeo’s visit to Israel comes exactly one year after he said the US did not consider Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory to be illegal, putting Washington at odds with the United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Pompeo is expected to visit the occupied West Bank winery of Psagot, which has rolled out a label named after him in tribute to his visit, Israeli media reported.
The winery has unsuccessfully challenged a European decision to put a label on all products that come from illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The State Department has not confirmed Pompeo’s itinerary.
In a statement earlier this week, it said only that he would visit Israel and meet Netanyahu.
‘Pompeo and 2024’
Pompeo’s trip comes two months before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, a past critic of illegal settlements.
Maher Mezher, a member of the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine Central Committee, told Anadolu Agency that Pompeo’s visit aims to legalise Israel’s illegal settlement policies and show US administration’s support to Israel.
Trump has been trying to escalate political tension in the region even in the last days of his presidency, Mezher said.
Aaron David Miller, a veteran US diplomat in the Middle East, tweeted that Pompeo’s visit “isn’t about Trump or Bibi’s politics; it’s about Pompeo and 2024”, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.
Pompeo has made little secret of his aspirations for higher office and has frequently pointed to his support of Israel, a key cause for his Republican Party’s evangelical Christian base.
About 450,000 Jewish settlers live alongside about 2.8 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967.
Last month, Peace Now, a settlement watchdog group, reported that 2020 marked one of the most prolific years for Israel’s illegal settlement building.
The latest approvals in October raised the number of illegal settlement homes to more than 12,150, the highest number since Peace Now began recording the figures in 2012.