If I forget thee (part II): Closing out trip, Pompeo ‘wheels up from Jerusalem’

US secretary of state tweets photo of himself departing from Ben Gurion Airport, outside Tel Aviv; writes that he is leaving from Jerusalem, Israel’s ‘eternal capital’

(From R-L) Susan Pompeeo, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and aide Aryeh Lightstone at Ben Gurion Airport, Lod, on November 20, 2020. (State Department/Twitter)
(From R-L) Susan Pompeeo, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and aide Aryeh Lightstone at Ben Gurion Airport, Lod, on November 20, 2020. (State Department/Twitter)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Friday that he was “wheels up from the magnificent city of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel.”

Except Jerusalem doesn’t have an airport. Ben Gurion Airport, from which he departed, is in Lod, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv and some 52 kilometers (32 miles) from Jerusalem.

Pompeo, who was wrapping up an eventful visit to the country, was apparently more concerned with highlighting the US policy instituted in 2017 by the Trump administration that recognizes the city as Israel’s capital, than specific geographical accuracy.

“Grateful for good meetings with @IsraeliPM @Netanyahu and the opportunity to visit some of the most treasured sites in human history,” Pompeo added in the tweet, which also included photos of him about to board a plane to head to the United Arab Emirates, in what well could be his final trip in the region as secretary of state.

Pompeo’s tweet highlighted the propensity of visitors to use their trips to Israel for domestic consumption, with many speculating that Pompeo was using the trip to appeal to his evangelical Christian supporters ahead of a possible 2024 presidential run.

It also stood in stark contrast to another visitor to Jerusalem this week, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, who spent nearly 12 hours in Jerusalem on Wednesday, but somehow managed to go the whole day without publicly mentioning the name of the city he was in.

The websites of the Foreign Ministry in Manama and the state-owned Bahrain News Agency each ran five items about al-Zayani’s trip — none of which mentioned Jerusalem. Indeed, both sites, which published the same articles, went so far as to falsely state that al-Zayani’s sit-downs with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin were in Tel Aviv, when they took place in Jerusalem.

President Reuven Rivlin (R) and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on November 18, 2020. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

People who use “Tel Aviv” as a synecdoche for Israel usually seek to imply that the coastal city is Israel’s capital, as opposed to Jerusalem.

Related: If I forget thee? Bahrain claims its minister’s Jerusalem talks were in Tel Aviv

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, as the capital of a future state. Israel claims the whole city as its “undivided eternal capital.” US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the following May.

Pompeo’s tweet drew some ridicule of Twitter, with one person writing: “Breaking: The Trump administration has also moved Israel’s airport to Jerusalem.”

Another quipped: “Live from the Donald J Trump International Airport in Jerusalem, Israel.”

Pompeo wrapped up his over two days in Israel with a visit Friday to a museum in Jerusalem that honors Christian Zionists and was founded by a prominent evangelical adviser to the Trump administration.

The museum visit came a day after Pompeo became the first secretary of state to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank and visited the contested Golan Heights. He also announced a new policy allowing settlement products exported to the US to be labeled “made in Israel” and a new initiative to combat the Palestinian-led international boycott movement, which he said would be designated as “anti-Semitic.”

The moves Pompeo announced Thursday are largely symbolic and could be easily reversed by President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration. But it was a powerful show of support for Israel and its Christian allies.

Underlining his affinity for Jerusalem, Pompeo was accused of violating the Hatch Act earlier this year by delivering a video-taped speech from the rooftop of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem to the Republican National Convention.

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