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Pompeo Visits Jerusalem Western Wall with Netanyahu

Pompeo Visits Jerusalem Western Wall with Netanyahu

Thursday, 21 March, 2019 - 18:45
Pompeo speaks during a news conference in Kuwait ahead of his visit to Israel. AP photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a visit Thursday to Jerusalem's Western Wall along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an apparent sign of support for Israel's control of the contested city.

Pompeo is the highest-ranking American official to tour the site with any Israeli leader. His visit was likely to further infuriate the Palestinians, who already have severed ties with the US over its Jerusalem policies.

Pompeo and Netanyahu prayed at the wall before depositing written prayers in its crevices and then touring nearby tunnels and synagogue. Neither made any public comment at the site.

The secretary said he thought it was important to visit the wall with the Israeli leader as a show of support for Israel.

"I think it's symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel," he said before making the trip. "It's a place that's important to many faiths and I'm looking forward to it. I think it will be very special."

Pompeo's trip comes while Netanyahu is in the midst of a tight re-election campaign that could get a boost from the visit of the secretary of state. Pompeo has said his trip has nothing to do with politics.

Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war, and for decades, US officials refrained from visiting the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city's most sensitive holy sites. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

But the Trump administration has upended the longstanding policy, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem last year after recognizing the city as Israel's capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital.

The administration has developed close ties with Netanyahu, who is scheduled to visit the White House next week. In addition to its policies toward the Palestinians, the US has taken a hard line toward Iran, much to Netanyahu's delight.

In a further boost to Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump said Thursday that it was time for Washington to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that Israel seized from Syria in 1967.

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