Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made an unprecedented visit to Psagot, a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – the first such visit by a top US official.
The trip to Psagot came a year after Mike Pompeo said the settlements did not contradict international law, reversing a long-held US position.
The declaration outraged Palestinians, who oppose settlements on land they claim for a future independent state.
Mike Pompeo later paid a similar visit to the occupied Golan Heights.
Last year, President Donald Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981.
President Trump is a close ally of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and analysts say Mike Pompeo’s actions could be seen as a valedictory gesture before he and the president leave the world stage.
The secretary of state arrived in Israel on November 18 for what is likely to be his last trip to Israel before leaving office in January.
After meeting PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem on November 19, he announced that the state department would declare as anti-Semitic the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.
Israel says that BDS opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism. BDS rejects the charge, saying Israel is using it as a cover for its actions.
Mike Pompeo also told reporters that “for a long time the state department took the wrong view of settlements” in the West Bank.
He said: “It took a view that didn’t recognize the history of this special place and instead now today the United States department of state stands strongly to the recognition that settlements can be done in a way that’s lawful and appropriate and proper.”
Mike Pompeo then travelled by helicopter to the Psagot winery, in a Jewish settlement close to Ramallah.
More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.