The American diplomat, Mike Pompeo, called on Wednesday for “progress” in the implementation of the Trump project for the Middle East, which provides for the annexation by Israel of parts of the occupied West Bank, and lambasted Iran during a lightning visit to Jerusalem.
For his first trip abroad in almost two months, the American Secretary of State wore on his arrival a mask in the colors of the American flag, which he took off for his talks, notably with the Prime Minister Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu. He left in the afternoon.
His visit comes almost two years after the recognition by the American government of Jerusalem, a city with contested status, as the capital of Israel and on the eve of the inauguration of a union government between Mr. Netanyahu and his former electoral rival Benny Gantz, to end the worst political crisis in the history of Israel.
Their power-sharing agreement provides for the announcement, from July 1 , of a strategy to apply Mr. Trump's plan to resolve the israelo-Palestinian conflict.
Rejected by the Palestinians, this plan provides for the annexation by Israel of the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and the creation of a Palestinian state on a reduced territory.
Over the past decade, the population in the Israeli settlements has jumped by 50% to exceed 450 000 people, often living in conflict with more than 2.7 million Palestinians.
Defending Israel’s right to “defend itself”, Pompeo said that “progress must be made” in the implementation of the Trump plan, saying he was “impatient”. He also met with future Israeli defense and foreign ministers, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi.
In a speech in Ramallah on Wednesday evening, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the annexation plan without directly mentioning Pompeo’s visit to Israel. He reiterated his threat to end the agreements with Israel “if the Israeli government announces the annexation of part of our occupied land”.
“The United States is a stakeholder in this plan,” previously replied to the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saëb Erakat. “International leaders have made it clear to us that annexation poses a threat not only to peace in the Middle East, but to the entire international system.”
“Any Israeli decision to annex settlements, the Jordan Valley and the North Dead Sea in occupied Palestine would be a catastrophic step which will kill the chances of achieving a just peace, will push the region towards more conflicts” , reacted the Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aymen al-Safadi.
The settlements are a matter of domestic policy in the United States, where evangelical movements, in support of Trump's republicans, defend the project of a “Greater Israel” including territories in the West Bank.
If he mentioned the annexation project, Mr. Pompeo concentrated on Wednesday his attacks on Iran, the bane of Israel and the United States, and country most affected by the COVID pandemic- 19 in the Middle East, with more than 110 000 sick .
“Even during this pandemic, the Iranians are using the resources of the Ayatollah regime to foment terror around the world, even though the Iranian people are suffering a lot,” said Pompeo.
In the past three weeks, at least six strikes have been attributed to Israel against pro-Iranian targets in neighboring Syria at war.