Israel 'is not an occupying nation'

Pompeo, weighing presidential run, calls Palestinian president a ‘known terrorist’

Former US secretary of state says Israel has biblical claim to the land, hedges on two-state solution, dismisses concerns about judicial overhaul

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo at a political event in Manchester, New Hampshire, September 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo at a political event in Manchester, New Hampshire, September 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is considering running for the presidency in 2024, has said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a “terrorist” and hedged on support for a two-state solution.

Pompeo, in comments made to the One Decision Podcast released on Thursday, also dismissed US concerns over the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul and expressed support for settlers.

He criticized the Obama administration for its negotiations with Abbas, referring to the Palestinian president by his nickname, Abu Mazen.

“Our theory of the case was this — what is in America’s best interest? Is it to sit and wait for Abu Mazen, a known terrorist who’s killed lots and lots of people, including Americans, and given those martyrs money, for having done so?” Pompeo said of the Trump administration’s approach. “We said that’s just not in America’s best interest.”

He did not offer evidence for the claim against Abbas during the talk with hosts Julia Macfarlane, a journalist; and former chief of the UK’s MI6 intelligence agency Sir Richard Dearlove.

The Palestinian Authority is affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization, a US-designated terrorist group, and pays stipends to terrorists and their families. The payments have long been a point of contention between the US and the Palestinians.

Congress under the Trump administration passed the Taylor Force Act, which cut some aid to the Palestinians due to the stipends. The law was named after an American murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Israel in 2016.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the Arab League’s “Summit for Jerusalem” in Cairo, on February 12, 2023. (Ahmad Hassan/AFP)

The Knesset approved a law on Wednesday to strip convicted terrorists with Israeli nationality of their citizenship if they receive the stipends from the Palestinian Authority or an associated organization.

Pompeo was evasive when asked about his support for a two-state solution, saying, “I’m for an outcome that guarantees Israeli security and makes life better for everyone in the region.”

“It is not an occupying nation. This land, as an Evangelical Christian, I am convinced from my reading of the Bible that 3,000 years onto now, in spite of the denial of so many, is the rightful homeland of the Jewish people,” Pompeo said. “We should support Israel in its efforts. They’ll find their own way to an outcome.

“In the meantime, we should look out for Europe and America and make sure we are helping these nations get toward the right place, and we want good things for everyone, including those folks who live in Judea and Samaria,” he said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

He brushed off concerns about the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu working to weaken the judiciary. The drastic overhaul proposal has led to mass protests in Israel and warnings from legal experts, economic officials and foreign governments, including the US.

“The Israelis are one of the most democratic nations in the world and they’ll continue at it, and this to and fro, these protests you’re seeing, we’ve had protests at our Supreme Court too. People are entitled to their own views,” Pompeo said. “I don’t want to get in the center of Israeli politics. That relationship is absolutely vital to us.”

Then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, left, and then USresident Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, April 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The US relationship with the Palestinians soured under the Trump administration. Abbas cut ties with Washington after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and preemptively rejected the president’s peace proposal, which was seen as favoring Israel. The administration also drastically reduced funding for the Palestinians.

In 2019, Pompeo broke with longstanding US policy by declaring Israeli settlements “not per se inconsistent with international law.”

Pompeo, a former CIA director, said in late January that he is considering a presidential run and will announce a decision in the coming months.

He would be running against Trump, who was the first Republican to announce his candidacy.

Nikki Haley, who served as US ambassador to the UN under Trump, announced her presidential candidacy on Tuesday, becoming the first major Republican to challenge Trump. Haley is also staunchly pro-Israel and vowed to “stand by our friends Israel and Ukraine against Iran and Russia” in her candidacy announcement.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, seen as another potential contender for the Republican nomination, highlighted his pro-Israel bona fides and his support for Israel’s claim to the West Bank during the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual conference late last year.

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