JERUSALEM – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's expected tour of a West Bank winery this week will be the first time a top American diplomat has visited an Israeli settlement, a parting gift from an administration that has taken unprecedented steps to support Israel's claims to war-won territory.
The Psagot winery, established in part on land the Palestinians say was stolen from local residents, is part of a sprawling network of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that most of the international community views as a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace.
The award-winning winery, which offers tours and event spaces, is a focus of Israel's efforts to promote tourism in the occupied territory and a potent symbol of its fight against campaigns to boycott or label products from the settlements.
Pompeo's expected visit, reported by Israeli media but not officially confirmed, would mark a radical departure from past administrations, both Democratic and Republican, which frequently scolded Israel over settlement construction — to little effect.
President Donald Trump has already broken with his predecessors by recognizing contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital and repudiating the decades-old U.S. position that settlements are inconsistent with international law. The administration has also recognized Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the 1967 war, where Pompeo may also pay a visit.
Trump's Mideast plan, which overwhelmingly favored Israel and was immediately rejected by the Palestinians, would have allowed Israel to annex nearly a third of the West Bank, including all of its settlements.
The visit to the winery — which released a blended red wine named for the secretary last year — would be yet another gift to Israel in the final weeks of Trump's presidency, even as neither Trump nor Pompeo have acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
The visit could also burnish Pompeo's credentials with evangelical Christians and other supporters of Israel should he pursue a post-Trump political career.