US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Israel next week for a brief visit amid the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, a trip that is expected to focus on far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex portions of the occupied West Bank, the State Department announced on Friday, May 8.
Pompeo will make the lightning trip to Jerusalem to meet with Netanyahu and his new coalition partner Benny Gantz on Wednesday, May 13. The State Department formally announced the trip more than a week after plans for it first surfaced and a day after Israeli media reported it. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement: “The US commitment to Israel has never been stronger than under President Trump’s leadership. The United States and Israel will face threats to the security and prosperity of our peoples together. In challenging times, we stand by our friends, and our friends stand by us.” Alone among all countries around the world, the Trump administration has said it will support the annexation of the Palestinian occupied territory.
Pompeo and his small traveling party will need exemptions from Israel’s own virus restrictions that bar foreign visitors from entering and require returning Israelis to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Ambassador David Friedman said Friday that Washington is ready to recognize Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank should it be declared in the coming weeks. In an interview with the pro-Netanyahu, freely distributed Israel Hayom daily, Friedman said that it is up to Israel to decide whether it wants to move forward with annexing settlements but that if it does, Washington will recognize the move. “We are not declaring sovereignty, but rather Israel, and then we are ready to recognize it,” the US ambassador said. “On the basis of the Trump plan — and he already agreed to this on the first day — we’ll recognize Israel’s sovereignty in areas that according to the plan will be a part of it,” Friedman indicated.
In a statement published on Saturday, May 9, the Communist Party of Israel, wrote: “The far-right Israeli government and its allies in the current US administration are unfazed by the serious yet still rhetorical international opposition to annexation plans, which are unfolding on the ground every day, as well as in Israel”. “This abject disregard for international law was evident in recent statements by US Ambassador Friedman, who reaffirmed his fundamentalism and the US administration’s full support for annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories. US imperialism must be stopped in its aggressive and illegal policies against the Palestinian people and peace, which threaten to condemn the entire region to an endless conflict.”
The arrival of Pompeo will coincide with the swearing-in of Israel’s new far-right government, which is expected to be sworn in next Wednesday, May 13. The new coalition agreement permits Netanyahu to introduce an annexation proposal to the government after July 1. Several demonstrations have been announced to take place on this day outside of the Knesset in Jerusalem.
On Friday, Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Representative of Palestine to the United Nations, said that the UN Security Council will convene on the 20th of the this month to discuss Israel’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, and to mobilize international pressure on Israel to cancel this plan.
Mansour told official Voice of Palestine radio that a meeting would also be held with the presidents of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, as part of the efforts to mobilize maximum international momentum to reject Israel’s annexation plan. Mansour said the State of Palestine will aim to build “a powerful and broad international front of all components of the international community to confront the [Israeli] policies of annexation,” starting from next July.