Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provided a defense of the Trump administration’s recent decision to recognize the Golan Heights as Israel’s sovereign territory during his remarks at the National Review Ideas Summit on Thursday.
President Trump, standing side-by-side with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval office, signed a proclamation Monday officially recognizing Israel’s 1967 annexation of the long contested Golan Heights territory as a legitimate, defensive action.
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2019
After announcing the historic decision via Twitter, Trump was immediately criticized for making an impulsive decision that might provide a pretext for other countries with territorial ambitions to act aggressively.
Asked about this criticism by National Review’s Rich Lowry, Pompeo cast the notion as merely another piece of conventional wisdom that has lingered through various administrations despite its lack of grounding reality.
“This is a longtime shibboleth and we’ve now busted down a handful of those things, where people thought an American action would lead to a particular reaction,” Pompeo said. “You need to look on the ground at what happened here, many countries have said they’re not going to join us but almost no one said that what we did wasn’t right or didn’t recognize the set of facts on the ground that were important.”
Pompeo went on to argue that, contra critics’ revisionist history, Israel’s control over the territory was central to its self defense since the Arab states were employing the high ground to bombard Israeli territory.
“This was a defensive engagement. It in no way blesses any act of aggression by any country,” he said.
Turning to the criticism that Trump’s choice of medium for the announcement (Twitter) evidenced a lack of forethought, Pompeo explained that the decision was made after substantial inter-agency groundwork.
“I remember reading it that this looked like a snap decision like it was random and not well thought through,” he said. “We’ve been working on this for an awfully long time all across the United States government…Is this the right thing, how do we do it, what are the underpinnings, what will be the reactions?”
“It’s the case that the moment the tweet came out it was spontaneous but the groundwork that had been done to lay the foundations of this decision was interagency and long in the making,” he added.
While State Department officials were expecting the move at some point in the coming weeks, the Monday announcement came as a surprise, according to the Associated Press.