US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday that "Israel is everything we want the entire Middle East to look like going forward" and that US-Israel relations are "stronger than ever".
Speaking at an award ceremony held by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America in Washington DC, Pompeo hailed Israel as "democratic and prosperous", adding "it desires peace, it is a home to a free press and a thriving economy," Arutz Sheva reported.
Pompeo then compared Israel to Iran, citing the latter's "corrupt leaders [who] assault the human rights of their own people and finance terrorism in every corner of the Middle East". Pompeo lamented that the US administration under former President Barack Obama "had more respect for the leaders of Iran than it did for the State of Israel," stressing that
under President Trump's leadership, the United States is standing where it should firmly be: On the side of Israel.
Pompeo also discussed the long-awaited US peace initiative – dubbed the "deal of the century" – hailing it as a "truly historic" effort to reach an agreement. Pompeo said that "we [the USA] are very hopeful that one day the Palestinian people will have the same kinds of things, the same material, the same opportunities that the people of Israel have," according to the Jerusalem Post. Pompeo added "We very much want you [the Palestinians] to have a space."
Yet the Secretary of State also admitted that despite this "hope" for a Palestinian "space", he had that same day denied a $165 million transfer of aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) citing the PA's "funding of terror". Pompeo was referring to the PA's refusal to adhere to US demands to cease so-called "martyr payments" to the families of those killed by Israeli occupation forces or those incarcerated in Israeli prisons. Other countries have also put pressure on the PA, with Israel enacting a law to withhold $130 million per month of tax revenue collected on behalf of the PA unless it ceases these stipends and Australia cutting its aid to the PA.
Though US-Israel ties have historically been strong, under President Donald Trump's administration these ties have reached new heights. Last week the largest ever US aid package to Israel – worth $38 billion over 10 years – entered into force. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the US and Israel in 2016 under the Obama Administration, but State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert hailed the deal as reflecting "the enduring and unshakable commitment of the President [Trump], this Administration, and the American people to Israel's security".
Trump has also spearheaded the so-called "deal of the century", a peace initiative he hopes will solve the decades-long situation in Israel-Palestine. Last month the president expressed support for the two-state solution for the first time since entering office. He explained: "I like two-state solution. Yeah. That's what I think… that's what I think works best. I don't even have to speak to anybody, that's my feeling… I think two-state solution works best." Despite such attempts to appear even-handed, the US has been criticised as a dishonest broker in any peace negotiations, with many believing the "deal of the century" will be biased towards Israel and put Israel's "security" before any measures beneficial to the Palestinians.