JERUSALEM (AP) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is touring a West Bank winery this week for the first time as a top U.S. ambassador to Israeli immigration visits the war-torn territory, an administration that has taken unprecedented steps to support Israeli claims.
The Sacot wine distillery, which was established as part of a land that Palestinians claim was stolen from locals, is part of a vast network of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, which most of the international community see as violating international law and a major obstacle to peace.
The award-winning wine, which offers tours and event venues, is at the center of Israel’s efforts to promote tourism in the occupied territory and a powerful symbol of its fight against campaigns to boycott or label products from settlements.
Pompeo’s expected visit was announced by the Israeli media, but was not officially confirmed, signaling a radical departure from past administrations, with Democrats and Republicans often scolding Israel over immigration construction – with little effect.
President Donald Trump has already broken with his predecessors by recognizing rival Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and rejecting the decades-old US position that immigration is against international law. The administration has also acknowledged that Israel annexed the Golan Heights captured from Syria during the 1967 war, where Pompeo can also be visited.
Trump’s Midast plan, which greatly supported Israel It was immediately rejected by the Palestinians, who would have allowed Israel to annex almost a third of the West Bank.
While neither Trump nor Pompeo will acknowledge the success of President-elect Joe Biden, a mixed red wine production site named for last year’s secretary – will be another gift to Israel.
If he wants to pursue a post-Trump political career, the visit could burn Bombay with evangelical Christians and other Israeli supporters.
The Folic family of Florida, owners of the ubiquitous chain of Dooty Free America stores, is a major investor in winemaking. An Associated Press inquiry last year The family has donated at least $ 6.6 million to immigrant groups in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the past decade. Since 2000, they have donated at least 7 1.7 million to pro-Israel politicians in the United States, including Democrats and Republicans, including Trump.
Simon Folic, one of the owners, could not confirm Pompeo’s arrival, but told Andhra that it was “a great honor to welcome him and thank him for his support to Israel.”
In the 1967 war, Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that the Palestinians wanted for their future state. Since then, it has built about 130 apartments and dozens of small outposts, from clusters of mobile homes in remote foothills to fully developed cities. More than 460,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank, and more than 220,000 are annexed to East Jerusalem.
According to the Palestinians, it is almost impossible for the settlers to create a viable state – this is one of the main goals of the settlers.
Immigrants, many of whom oppose a Palestinian state and regard Jerusalem and the West Bank as the biblical and historical heart of Israel, say they are the victims of a long-term approach to resolving the never-ending conflict.
“More important than where (Pompeo) is going is … the news,” said Odet Revivi, the mayor of Efrat. “The message he brings with him (former US President) Jimmy Carter is one of not getting caught in the trap of treating us as second-class citizens and an obstacle to peace.”
According to Palestinians, many of the apartments, including Sacot and its wineries, were built on land stolen from private Palestinian owners. Residents of the nearby city of Al-Beer – many of whom claim to be US citizens – after Israel built a security fence around the Sacot during the Palestinian Indipada or uprising in the early 2000s.
Al-Beer’s two sisters, Kainot and Karema Quran, claim to have documents showing that they own a piece of land on which some vineyards and a wine-building were established.
“Imagine your own land, your property, where you lived and where your ancestors lived, it is taken by strangers, by force, you can not touch it,” Kinot said.
Munif Trash, a U.S.-born al-Behre city councilor, has been campaigning for years on behalf of the community to reclaim the confiscated land. The settlers confiscated a total of 1,000 dunes (250 acres), 400 of which were used by wineries.
Falik said he was unaware of any claims to the wineries’ land and that it had recently been transferred to a nearby industrial zone on the West Bank on land purchased directly from the Israeli government.
“There should be no controversy about the products that Jews make in Judea,” he wrote to Andhra, referring to the south-west coast by its biblical name. “The place and success of the winery should not create controversy, but rather cause Jewish and Israeli pride.”
Last November, European courts ruled that European countries should stamp products appearing in settlements.. The decision comes after the company, which produces 600,000 bottles a year and produces 70% of its exports, challenged the previous ruling.
Israel has condemned the decision to impose labels, saying it would be unjust, discriminatory and would encourage a Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel.
One week after the verdict, Pompeo announced that the United States no longer considered Israeli settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law., Changing four decades of US policy.
In gratitude for this, Sacot released a new wine called “Pompeo”, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chira and Merlot.
“The message of the American administration is very important and strengthens our current struggle against the propaganda of neglect and hypocrisy,” said Yakov Berg, CEO of the winemaker. “We will continue this just and moral struggle.”
A very different struggle is going on in al-Beer, where city councilor Dresh and other residents plan to protest Pompeo’s occupation solution.
“We want to tell Pompeo that instead of asking Israel to return American citizens, you are here to celebrate the occupation,” he said.
Associated Press writers Mohammed Tarakmey in Al-Beer in the West Bank and Joseph Federman in Jerusalem contributed to the report.