Pompeo meets Netanyahu with annexation on agenda
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday to discuss plans to annex parts of the West Bank, as Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian teen in a clash with stone-throwers in the occupied territory.
Pompeo’s brief visit came at a tense time, as Israeli troops searched for the killers of a soldier killed a day earlier by a rock dropped from a rooftop during an army raid of a West Bank village.
With US President Donald Trump facing election in November, Netanyahu is eager to move ahead quickly with annexing portions of the West Bank. Annexation is expected to appeal to Trump’s pro-Israel supporters, but is also bound to trigger widespread international condemnation.
It would crush already faint Palestinian hopes of establishing a viable state on lands Israel captured in the 1967 war.
Pompeo landed in Tel Aviv early yesterday, donning a red, white and blue face mask, and headed directly to Jerusalem, receiving an exemption from Israel’s mandatory two-week quarantine for arrivals due to the coronavirus outbreak.
He is the first foreign official to visit Israel since January, before the country largely shut its borders to curb the pandemic.
Neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo mentioned yesterday’s violence in the southern West Bank.
The Palestinian health ministry said a 15-year-old boy was killed in confrontations with Israeli forces near the city of Hebron. It said four others were wounded by live fire. There was no immediate comment from Israel.
On Tuesday, an Israeli soldier was killed in the northern West Bank after being struck in the head with a rock thrown off a rooftop. The military said it had arrested 10 suspects.
Pompeo expressed his condolence on the soldier’s death and said “Israel has the right to defend itself and America will consistently support you in that effort.”
Under Trump’s plan unveiled in January, the Palestinians would have limited statehood while Israel would annex 30 percent of the West Bank. Palestinian officials have immediately rejected the plan.
Netanyahu’s plans to annex occupied West Bank territory have drawn fierce criticism. The Arab League has said annexation would be a “war crime.” And the European Union, as well as individual member states, have warned of tough consequences if Israel moves forward.