Pics with Mossad chief, settlement wines: Pompeo’s departing pro-Israel posts

US secretary of state issues stream of tweets lauding his Middle East accomplishments as his term ends; critics say flurry is inappropriate campaigning from a government account

(L-R) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Susan Pompeo, Aya Cohen and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, January 15, 2021. (State Department/Twitter)
(L-R) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Susan Pompeo, Aya Cohen and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, January 15, 2021. (State Department/Twitter)

With less than a week remaining in office, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to Twitter to boast of his perceived accomplishments as top US diplomat, and has talked up President Donald Trump even as he bleeds support following the storming of the US Capitol last week.

From Tuesday through Friday, Pompeo issued a stream of posts highlighting pro-Israel moves advanced by the Trump administration and other measures he moved forward as secretary of state.

Pompeo is reportedly considering a run for president in 2024, and as an evangelical Christian, he would likely rely on the support of both his own religious community as well as the broader pool of conservative, pro-Israel voters.

Some critics accused Pompeo of inappropriately campaigning for his personal benefit from an official government account, instead of his own private account.

The dozens of posts from the secretary of state’s official government account included a photo Yossi Cohen, head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, standing alongside his wife Aya, Pompeo, and the top diplomat’s wife Susan.

There were also photos of Pompeo visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Yad Vashem and West Bank settlements.

“L’chaim to Pompeo wine!” he wrote in one post that included a picture of several bottles of a blend named in his honor by the Psagot winery located in the West Bank on land Palestinians claim as their own.

Psagot named the wine blend after Pompeo following his 2019 repudiation of a State Department memo that deemed Israeli settlements to be illegal.

Pompeo highlighted that decision, as well as a subsequent one that ordered all US exports from the settlements labeled “made in Israel,” in successive posts on Thursday.

Other tweets played up measures taken by the administration against anti-Semitism and the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; the State Department classification of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as a terrorist; Israel’s US-brokered normalization agreements with Arab states; and the altering of policy to allow US citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their country of birth.

“No Administration has done more to partner with the Middle East’s most vibrant and tolerant democracy, Israel, than we have,” Pompeo wrote.

Pompeo has doubled down on his support for Trump, even as other Cabinet members have resigned or stayed out of sight in the aftermath of the storming of the US Capitol by a mob incited by Trump on January 6. While the House of Representatives debated Trump’s role in igniting the riot, Pompeo issued a tweet promoting Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting Israel-Arab ties.

Over the past week, Pompeo has celebrated controversial policies that are likely to be overturned by his successor, stepped up criticism of what he believes to be unfair news coverage, and has complained about alleged censorship of conservatives on social media.

And in a sign of his post-Trump ambitions, he urged followers of his official State Department Twitter account to start following his personal one.

While it’s not unusual for outgoing Cabinet members to publicize their successes, Pompeo has taken it a step further by trashing his predecessors in the national security community, some of whom will play prominent roles in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

“Remember this Middle East ‘expert?’ He said it couldn’t happen. We did it,” Pompeo said in a taunting tweet featuring a video clip of John Kerry saying Arab countries would not recognize Israel without an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Kerry, a former secretary of state, will serve as climate envoy in the Biden administration.

Already the most political of recent secretaries of state, Pompeo has bristled at even the mildest criticism and accused his critics of being misguided, unintelligent or incompetent. He has ignored the advice of his own advisers by forging ahead with pet projects, some of which seem designed to complicate Biden’s presidency.

The actions are in line with a tough “America First” policy that he has long espoused with gusto.

On Iran, Pompeo has been particularly harsh, re-imposing all sanctions that had been eased by the Obama administration after the 2015 nuclear deal and adding more penalties. He also advocated for the killing of a top Iranian general in Iraq at the beginning of last year and has been at the forefront of an effort to encourage Sunni Arab states to unite against predominantly Shiite Iran.

“The foreign policy blob constantly looks for a moderate inside the Iranian regime who will ‘normalize relations,’ Pompeo said this week. “The reality is you have a better chance finding a unicorn.”

Yet for all the efforts to celebrate Trump administration foreign policy, Pompeo and the State Department have had minimal roles in some of the biggest areas, with the White House taking charge. That was most notable in what Trump supporters see as one of his top accomplishments, improving Israel’s ties with its Arab neighbors.

Led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, the administration relentlessly promoted Israeli-Arab peace efforts, culminating in agreements for the normalization of relations between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. Pompeo and the State Department were largely absent from that diplomacy, with the exception of Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who reports mainly to the White House.

Pompeo’s State Department was effectively shut out of Kushner’s much-talked-about Israeli-Palestinian peace “vision” — and the secretary of state was not present for the rollout of the economic part of the plan in Bahrain in 2019. Pompeo and other Cabinet members were present for the unveiling of the political piece of the proposal last January, yet his role in creating the plan, which was immediately rejected by the Palestinians, is murky.

Similarly, the State Department took a backseat in Kushner’s negotiations to get Morocco to normalize ties with Israel, which involved US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the former Spanish territory of Western Sahara.

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