US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Friday that he was “wheels up from the magnificent city of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel.”
Except Jerusalem doesn’t have an airport. In fact, Ben Gurion Airport is in Lod, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv and some 52 kilometers (32 miles) from Jerusalem.
Pompeo, who was wrapping up an eventful visit to the country, was apparently more concerned with highlighting the US policy instituted in 2017 by the Trump administration that recognizes the city as Israel’s capital, than geographical accuracy.
“Grateful for good meetings with @IsraeliPM @Netanyahu and the opportunity to visit some of the most treasured sites in human history,” Pompeo added in the tweet, which also included photos of him about to board a plane to head to the United Arab Emirates, in what well could be his final trip in the region as secretary of state.
Wheels up from the magnificent city of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel. Grateful for good meetings with @IsraeliPM @Netanyahu and the opportunity to visit some of the most treasured sites in human history. pic.twitter.com/vXkYmDA3OC
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 20, 2020
Pompeo’s tweet highlighted the propensity of visitors to use their trips to Israel for domestic consumption, with many speculating that Pompeo was using the trip to appeal to his evangelical Christian supporters ahead of a possible 2024 presidential run.
It also stood in stark contrast to another visitor to Jerusalem this week, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, who spent nearly 12 hours in Jerusalem on Wednesday, but somehow he appeared to manage to go the whole day without publicly mentioning the name of the city he was in.
The websites of the Foreign Ministry in Manama and the state-owned Bahrain News Agency each ran five items about the trip — none of which mention Jerusalem. Indeed, both sites, which published the same articles, went so far as to falsely state that al-Zayani’s sit-downs with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin were in Tel Aviv, when they took place in Jerusalem.
People who use “Tel Aviv” as a synecdoche for Israel usually seek to imply that the coastal city is Israel’s capital, as opposed to Jerusalem.
The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, as the capital of a future state. Israel claims the whole city as its “undivided eternal capital.”
Pompeo’s tweet drew some ridicule of Twitter, with one person writing: “Breaking: The Trump administration has also moved Israel’s airport to Jerusalem.”
BREAKING: The Trump administration has also moved Israel’s airport to Jerusalem. https://t.co/DgeO7nbGJe
— Corey Jacobson (@CoreyJacobson) November 20, 2020
While another quipped “Live from the Donald J Trump International Airport in Jerusalem, Israel.”
Live from the Donald J Trump International Airport in Jerusalem, Israel ???? https://t.co/kic85ZnqPt
— Jacob Kornbluh (@jacobkornbluh) November 20, 2020
Pompeo wrapped up his over two days in Israel with a visit to a museum in Jerusalem that honors Christian Zionists and was founded by a prominent evangelical adviser to the Trump administration.
The museum visit came a day after Pompeo became the first secretary of state to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank and visited the contested Golan Heights. He also announced a new policy allowing settlement products exported to the US to be labeled “made in Israel” and a new initiative to combat the Palestinian-led international boycott movement, which he said would be designated as “anti-Semitic.”
The moves Pompeo announced Thursday are largely symbolic and could be easily reversed by President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration. But it was a powerful show of support for Israel and its Christian allies.
It’s not the first time Pompeo’s affinity for Jerusalem has got him into trouble.
Earlier in the year he was accused of violating the Hatch Act by delivering a video-taped speech from the rooftop of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem to the Republican National Convention.