QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo was sworn in as Secretary of State on April 26, 2018, and previously served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He has served as a four-term congressman in the Fourth District of Kansas, graduated first in his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and graduated from Harvard Law School after leaving active duty in the military. A true American leader and hero, we are honored to have him with us now.
Secretary Pompeo, welcome to A View From the Wall.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s wonderful to be with you all. Thanks for that very kind introduction, and I look forward to our conversation today.
QUESTION: Well, thank you. And many of our listeners have heard the announcement of the Israeli settlement change. This turning point specifically notes the U.S. declares that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are not necessarily illegal. This is a major break from international law, which has generally sided with the Palestinian people on this issue. Summarize for us, if you would, the significance of this change for those who may be unfamiliar with the topic.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So now a couple weeks back, the 18th of November, the State Department announced reversal of the Obama administration’s approach towards Israeli settlements. You know the long history, and we know what subsequent administrations have done as well. And so we wanted to take a fresh look at this. We wanted to – Secretary Kerry, my predecessor’s predecessor, on the way out made a set of decisions here, and we wanted to go re-look that. So we did. It took us a bit to work our way through it, but ultimately after studying all sides of debate, we agree with President Reagan that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank are not per se inconsistent with international law. We think that’s really important on multiple fronts. I’m happy to talk about why we believe it’s important, but we’re confident that we have it right, and we’re confident that this increases the likelihood that we can one day resolve the conflict between Israel and the people that are living in the West Bank.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, as we look at the specific applications of this Israeli settlement policy change, how could this impact Israel, especially those living in the settlements in those disputed areas?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, importantly, Israeli courts have handled this idea of what’s lawful and what’s unlawful for an awfully long time. And it need not be the case that this is tried to settle from the outside, and international law doesn’t require that. And that’s a – that was the statement that we made, that it is not by necessity, per se inconsistent with international law based on the very unique facts and history of this precious land. And so those who are living there will see that now the United States posture is different.
We recognize that Israeli courts have ruled some settlements as unlawful – they’ve made conclusions that others were not – and that international law doesn’t require every settlement to be deemed unlawful under international law. And that’s important, because we think this will create the political space for the ultimate resolution. In the end, it’s not going to be courts and mandates from international organizations that drive this right outcome. It’s going to be a political resolution between the parties that will get the outcome that I know Israel so richly deserves.
And so, by the United States doing this, by us taking this position, we think it creates the political space that increases the likelihood that there is a resolution, a political resolution of this challenge.
QUESTION: Well, I know the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has praised this change regarding Israeli settlements. And he stated, and I quote, “This policy reflects an historical truth: that the Jewish people are not foreign colonists in Judea and Samaria. In fact, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea.” And this is not the first change during the Trump administration to support Israel. And I would like you to take a moment to share some of the other recent developments in American-Israeli relations for our audience today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, the decision we made is, as the prime minister said, based on facts, reality, history, the circumstances that are presented in this land. As a Christian, I appreciate the importance of these – this special place, Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.
Two things. Each decision that the United States has made with respect to Israel has been based on that same set of facts and history and circumstances, whether it was the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, whether it was the decision we made about the status of the Golan Heights, the executive order that was issued last week with respect to – or this week, excuse me – with respect to anti-Semitism, or this issue with respect to the international status of settlements. Each of those is an analysis of the reality and the importance of this place and what the facts on the ground demand.
President Trump has been, if anything, incredibly clear in our foreign policy about not having a foreign policy that is about wishes and hopes, but rather a pragmatic, realistic view of reality. And our support for Israel reflects that strongly.
QUESTION: As part of your announcement, you called on the – Israel and the Palestinian Authority to meet. And you noted that, to quote you, they suggested, you should find a solution that promotes and protects the security and welfare of Israelis and Palestinians alike, added, “This is a complex political problem that can only be solved by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.” So the obvious question: What is the next step?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we hope it will be just that. The parties have to have leaders that are prepared to do things that are difficult. But more importantly, they need to be prepared to engage in a set of conversations to lead to what you just described.
Look, the hard truth is that there won’t be a judicial resolution to this conflict. Arguments about who’s right and who’s wrong as a matter of international law aren’t going to get peace. It’s a complex political problem only resolvable between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We’re – we the United States is committed to help facilitating that. We’ll do what we can. And we do, we encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to work together. The outcome will ultimately have to (inaudible) – for a security situation for Israel that is adequate, tolerable, acceptable, and provides that level of security that you can have a long-term resolution. The same need be said about the Palestinians. There needs to be outcome that the Palestinian people benefit from.
And we’ve seen the first part of the proposal that this administration has put forward about a brighter future, economic future for the people that are living in the West Bank. We hope that we can move forward. We hope that the Israelis and the Palestinians will begin these conversations in earnest, and we look forward to the moment that we get the ultimate resolution that I know – I know the world is seeking.
QUESTION: Well, that is a great response. And we know, though, that not everyone was excited about this new announcement regarding the Israeli settlements. For instance, in The Guardian there was a report that the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU policy on Israeli settlements is clear and remains unchanged, that “all settlement activities are illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace.”
Now, I want you to quote for a minute just what criticisms you faced following this announcement, and what is being done to perhaps address them at this point?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So two points. First, the legal analysis that the EU performed we just think is wrong. We think they have an improper analysis of the international law surrounding this. So as the technical legal matter, Ms. Mogherini just – she’s just wrong. And so we are doing our level best to demonstrate to them our legal theory, our understandings, and why it is that we’re convinced that under international law these settlements are not per se illegal. So we’re working that element of it as well.
But at another level, and perhaps at the level that will lead to the right outcome, which is why we did this, this has to be resolved through political means, and we hope that all nations, including member nations inside of the EU and the EU itself and countries all over the world, will come to recognize the fundamental rights that the Israeli people have to this land, to this space. There are real security needs. The risk that is presented from the world as anti-Semitism is on the rise, we hope that every nation will recognize that and weigh in on this conflict in a way that is constructive, that will ultimately lead to the peace that is so desperately needed.
And so I just – I’ll add only this, I watched the EU statements on this, and I just want to make sure that they too are focused on the right thing, which is the political resolution that will lead to an outcome that creates peace for the Palestinians and security and peace for the Israelis as well.
QUESTION: As Christians, we recognize Israel as the homeland of Jesus as well as the location of many key events of our faith. I’m actually calling in from Jerusalem. I’m in Jerusalem today. So it’s been especially important this week as we’ve spent time seeing some of those places. What are some ways we can encourage and motivate Christians to personally pray for and encourage peace in Israel? How can we get them to do that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, first of all, I’m envious. It’s a amazing, important, historic, and holy city. I’ve had the incredible privilege to go there. I’ve traveled there with my wife and son, too, to see the historic sites of my faith as you’re doing this week. It is always something special, and I would encourage Americans who have the opportunity to go see those places and to experience our Christian tradition. The reality of where Jesus walked would be something I would encourage every American to take the opportunity to do.
Second, I’d just ask everyone to pray that there will be a political resolution to this conflict. The Israeli people, the democracy in the Middle East deserve the security and peace that will come from that political resolution, and we brook no ill will to the Palestinians. We want them to have a better life as well. We want a solution that will work for their sustained peace and economic prosperity as well.
QUESTION: Well, we appreciate that response. And even in our news this week there have been issues regarding anti-Semitic events here in the United States. It continues to be an issue in Europe and throughout the West and North America, and we urgently oppose and work to stand against anti-Semitism in our work with American Christians. If you would, take a moment to share what is being done in the Trump administration to oppose anti-Semitism at this time.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So it’s a broad-ranging effort. Just this week there was an executive order that the President signed that is aimed squarely at pushing back against the boycott, divestment movement, the BDS movement that is taking place on our college campuses and across America that is truly harmful to the people of Israel and often has deep anti-Semitic overtones as well.
We’re working – I have an ambassador named Elan Carr who travels the world working on projects to speak to, address, to call out anti-Semitic activity and to do his level best to create institutions, whether that’s our partner governments or non-governmental organizations that are expressly aimed at protecting people of all faiths, but certainly including those who are Jewish and want to practice their faith without the risk that there will be anti-Semitic activity to take place. We have an obligation to try and do that here in the United States. I know the President has spoken to this very directly. And our team at the State Department speaks and works on this issue often as we travel the world.
QUESTION: Well, Secretary Pompeo, we appreciate you and your work on behalf of all Americans, as well as the administration’s support of Israel, and the discussion today has highlighted that very well. We want to thank you for joining us today on our episode of A View from the Wall.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me on. Bless you all. Have a great day.
QUESTION: All right, thank you.
QUESTION: Bless you as well. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. So long.