Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made an unprecedented visit to Psagot, a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – the first such visit by a top US official.
The trip to Psagot came a year after Mike Pompeo said the settlements did not contradict international law, reversing a long-held US position.
The declaration outraged Palestinians, who oppose settlements on land they claim for a future independent state.
Mike Pompeo later paid a similar visit to the occupied Golan Heights.
Last year, President Donald Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981.
President Trump is a close ally of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and analysts say Mike Pompeo’s actions could be seen as a valedictory gesture before he and the president leave the world stage.
The secretary of state arrived in Israel on November 18 for what is likely to be his last trip to Israel before leaving office in January.
After meeting PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem on November 19, he announced that the state department would declare as anti-Semitic the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.
Israel says that BDS opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism. BDS rejects the charge, saying Israel is using it as a cover for its actions.
Mike Pompeo also told reporters that “for a long time the state department took the wrong view of settlements” in the West Bank.
He said: “It took a view that didn’t recognize the history of this special place and instead now today the United States department of state stands strongly to the recognition that settlements can be done in a way that’s lawful and appropriate and proper.”
Mike Pompeo then travelled by helicopter to the Psagot winery, in a Jewish settlement close to Ramallah.
More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Rex Tillerson has been narrowly approved as secretary of state, despite concerns about his business ties to Russia.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee split along party lines, with all 11 Republicans voting in favor and all 10 Democrats against. A full vote will now be held in the Republican-run Senate.
The move capped a busy day for Donald Trump’s administration.
Most notable was the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), fulfilling a campaign pledge.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order to pull out from the 12-nation trade deal that had been a linchpin of former President Barack Obama’s Asia policy.
He said: “Great thing for the American worker what we just did.”
Also on January 23, the Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo as Donald Trump’s CIA director.
Mike Pompeo’s immediate task, correspondents say, will be to establish an effective relationship between the spy agency and Donald Trump.
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Donald Trump has been critical of the CIA for concluding that Russia had been actively working to influence the US presidential election in his favor.
In another development, new US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Washington had an “unshakeable commitment” to NATO, despite Donald Trump’s earlier description of the military alliance as “obsolete”.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Rex Tillerson after leading Republican Senator Marco Rubio dropped his opposition.
Marco Rubio sparred with Rex Tillerson during confirmation hearings earlier this month, accusing him of being soft on Russia.
The 64-year-old former head of Exxon Mobil knows Russian President Vladimir Putin through his business dealings.
However, Rex Tillerson has criticized Moscow for its annexation of Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula in 2014.
Marco Rubio said that although he had doubts over the choice, he believed a new president was entitled to deference in assembling his cabinet.
“Despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate,” said Marco Rubio.
He had challenged Rex Tillerson over his refusal to call President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” over Russia’s air strikes in Syria and his failure to condemn strongly enough human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.
Marco Rubio was among the candidates who fought Donald Trump in the battle for the Republican presidential ticket.
The partisan split in the voting is unusual. Traditionally, nominees for secretary of state have been approved by overwhelming votes from both parties.
Senator Ben Cardin, the committee’s top Democrat, had said he would not vote for Rex Tillerson, also over his position on Russia as well as other issues.
He also suggested that Rex Tillerson’s “business orientation” could “compromise his ability as secretary of state to forcefully promote the values and ideals that have defined” America.
While critics raise concern about Rex Tillerson’s ability to trade in his corporate interest for a national one, some supporters suggest the former CEO’s background as a global dealmaker may bring fresh perspective to the nation’s top diplomatic post.
At a closed doors meeting on January 23, Donald Trump told congressional leaders he would have won the popular vote in the election if millions of undocumented immigrants had not voted illegally. He gave no evidence for the claim.
Hillary Clinton won nearly three million votes more than Donald Trump, who got more support in key swing states and won the Electoral College.
However, any notion of widespread voter fraud was widely rejected as untrue when Donald Trump made the same claim in November.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Donald Trump’s pick as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said it is a “fair assumption” that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind US election hacks.
The former CEO of Exxon Mobil told the hearing committee the intelligence report on Russian tampering “clearly is troubling”.
Rex Tillerson’s comments came after Senator Marco Rubio pressed him to admit Vladimir Putin’s role in the cyber-breach.
His reported good ties with Vladimir Putin have alarmed some in the United States.
Rex Tillerson, 64, faced tough questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 11.
In a heated exchange, Marco Rubio grilled him on whether intelligence reports about Russia’s involvement in hacks on the US election were accurate and if Vladimir Putin had directed the attacks.
Rex Tillerson said he had no inside information on the detailed intelligence about Russia’s hacking, but he had read the declassified US report released last week on the issue.
The Florida senator suggested that Vladimir Putin was responsible for war crimes because of Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and bombing of Aleppo.
However, the Texan multimillionaire told Marco Rubio he would not describe Vladimir Putin as a war criminal.
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Rex Tillerson said: “I would not use that term.”
“Those are very, very serious charges to make and I’d want to have much more information before reaching that conclusion,” he added.
Marco Rubio – who was one of Donald Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination – said he had “serious concerns” about Rex Tillerson as America’s top diplomat.
While Rex Tillerson was grilled by senators in Washington DC, up in New York Donald Trump was rejecting claims that Russian intelligence agencies have compromising information about the president-elect.
In his first news conference in nearly six months on January 11, at Trump Tower, Donald Trump dismissed the allegations against him as “fake news” and “phony stuff” crafted by “sick people”.
Russia has called the allegations “pulp fiction” and a “clear attempt to damage relations”.
In his Senate statement, Rex Tillerson warned that Americans should be “clear-eyed about our relationship with Russia”.
“Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests. It has invaded Ukraine, including the taking of Crimea, and supported Syrian forces that brutally violate the laws of war,” he said.
“Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia,” he added.
It is Rex Tillerson’s connections to Russia that have drawn the most flak in recent months.
Rex Tillerson has forged multi-billion-dollar deals with Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft, spoken out against international sanctions imposed on Moscow and in 2013 was awarded an Order of Friendship by the Kremlin.
Donald Trump has confirmed that Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his choice for secretary of state.
In a statement, the president-elect praised Rex Tillerson, 64, as among the “most accomplished business leaders and international dealmakers” in the world.
Rex Tillerson is said to have a good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, alarming both Democrats and some Republicans.
The nomination needs Senate approval.
The secretary of state is in effect the most senior US diplomat, responsible for enacting the government’s foreign policy.
Under a Trump presidency, his in-tray could include everything from handling rows with China to revisiting the nuclear accord with Iran.
According to new reports, Donald Trump has also selected former Texas Governor Rick Perry as his Energy Secretary.
Rick Perry, 66, famously forgot the name of the energy department during a cringe-inducing gaffe at a 2011 Republican primary debate, when he said it was among the agencies he would eliminate if he was elected president.
He has also been a vocal critic of Donald Trump, calling him a “barking carnival act” and a “cancer on conservatism” before he dropped out of his second bid for the White House in 2015.
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Donald Trump said: “Rex Tillerson’s career is the embodiment of the American dream.
“His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for secretary of state.”
Rex Tillerson said he was “honored” by the nomination, adding that he shared Donald Trump’s “vision for restoring the credibility of the United States’ foreign relations and advancing our country’s national security”.
The announcement had been widely expected, with Rex Tillerson favored over high-profile Republicans, including the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
Although he has no formal foreign policy experience, as Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson oversees a company with 75,000 employees and business activities in more than 50 countries.
He has warned of the “catastrophic” impact of unchecked climate change, although his company has been accused of deliberately misleading the public about the role of fossil fuels in global warming.
However, it is Rex Tillerson’s connections to Russia that have drawn most flak.
He has forged multi-billion-dollar deals with Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft, spoken out against international sanctions imposed on Moscow and in 2013 was awarded an Order of Friendship by the Kremlin.
As rumors of his nomination gathered pace in recent days, one of Donald Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination, Marco Rubio, said being “‘a friend of Vladimir is not an attribute I am hoping for from” the next secretary of state.
Another Republican Senator John McCain expressed concern over Rex Tillerson’s links to Vladimir Putin but promised he would get a “fair hearing” in the Senate.
Reacting to the nomination, Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yury Ushakov, said all Russian officials and not just the president enjoyed “good, businesslike relations” with Rex Tillerson.
Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is being tipped as Donald Trump’s secretary of state.
Rex Tillerson, 64, has met the president-elect amid growing speculation that he is being considered for secretary of state.
NBC News quotes sources close to Donald Trump as saying that Rex Tillerson is likely to be named next week.
Former UN ambassador John Bolton will serve as his deputy, NBC adds.
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The news comes as Donald Trump’s team challenged the accuracy of intelligence reports that Russia intervened to boost his election prospects.
Veteran Republican Mitt Romney is among others who have also been linked to the role of secretary of state.
NYC ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani withdrew himself from consideration for the post last week. Rudy Giuliani’s foreign business dealings had raised questions over his suitability.
Rex Tillerson has extensive experience in international negotiations and a business relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He has been a critic of the international sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s presidential transition team took issue with CIA assessments that said Russia had attempted to assist Trump during the November election by releasing hacked emails harmful to Hillary Clinton.
In a statement, Donald Trump’s transition team said the officials making the assessment were “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction”.
Spokesman Sean Spicer said there were “people within these agencies who are upset with the outcome of the election”.
John Kerry has become the most senior US official to visit the Hiroshima memorial in Japan, which commemorates the world’s first atomic bombing.
Around 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima when the US dropped its atomic bomb in 1945.
John Kerry was joined by foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations who are holding talks in the city.
They laid wreaths at the memorial and observed a minute of silence.
The ministers also visited the Bomb Dome, over which the A-bomb exploded, and the nearby Hiroshima museum, which tells the personal stories of people who died.
John Kerry wrote in the museum guestbook that it was “a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to rededicate all our effort to avoid war itself”.
At 08:10 local time on August 6, 1945, the US B-29 bomber the Enola Gay dropped a uranium bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” on Hiroshima.
The bomb exploded 1,800ft above what is now the Hiroshima Peace Dome.
About 70,000 people died immediately. At least 140,000 people had died by the end of the year through injury and the effects of radiation.
The bombing, and a second bomb dropped on Nagasaki three days later, forced Japan to surrender, initiating the end of World War Two.
In 2008, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Hiroshima, but US diplomats have largely avoided official visits.
Many in the US believe the bombing was necessary to end the war, and do not want their leaders to take any action which might be seen as an apology.
John Kerry previously said his time in Hiroshima would “revisit the past and honor those who perished” but stressed that his trip was “about the present and the future”.
It also comes amid efforts to strengthen the relationship between the US and Japan, particularly with growing concern about China’s assertiveness in territorial disputes in Asia, affecting Japan and other US allies.
President Barack Obama is attending a G7 leaders’ summit elsewhere in Japan in May, and there are reports he is considering a stop in Hiroshima.
If it happens, it will be the first time a sitting US president visits Hiroshima.
Hillary Clinton has denied using a private email account to send or receive classified information while she was secretary of state, in response to a government inspector’s letter this week.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said at a campaign stop in Iowa: “I did not send nor receive anything that was classified at the time.”
The email controversy has dogged Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency, fuelling worries that the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination has tried to sidestep transparency and record-keeping laws.
At least four emails from the private email account that Hillary Clinton used while secretary of state contained classified information, Inspector General Charles McCullough, who oversees US intelligence agencies, told members of Congress in a letter on July 23.
However, Hillary Clinton said on July 25 she had “no idea” what were the emails mentioned in the letter.
Charles McCullough’s letter said a sampling of 40 of about 30,000 emails sent or received by Hillary Clinton found at least four that contained information the government had classified as secret.
The information was classified at the time that the emails were sent, he said.
The use of her private email account, linked to a server in her New York home for work, has drawn fire from political opponents since coming to light in March.
Republicans have accused Hillary Clinton of trying to avoid disclosure laws through her use of private systems.
Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner to represent the Democratic Party in the November 2016 election, has repeatedly said she broke no laws or rules by eschewing a standard government email account.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has responded to a growing controversy over using her private email account for government business.
Hillary Clinton urged officials to release those emails, tweeting: “I want the public to see my email.”
This came after her emails were subpoenaed by a congressional committee investigating the deadly attack on the US embassy in Benghazi in 2012.
The state department is examining Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account as a possible breach of federal law.
The controversy has put Hillary Clinton under pressure as she is widely believed to be planning a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
In the tweet, Hillary Clinton wrote: “I asked State to release them [emails]. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”
It was revealed on March 4 that Hillary Clinton had her own internet server at her home in New York.
As the secretary of state in 2009-2013, Hillary Clinton did not have a government email address, the US state department told The New York Times.
Government watchdogs and former officials from the National Archives and Records Administration told the newspaper that Hillary Clinton’s use of private email alone, without any government account, was a serious breach.
Others cited concerns that a personal email account could be vulnerable to hackers.
The matter has been complicated by Associated Press reports that an internet server was registered under the name of Eric Hoteham at Hillary Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, New York.
The correspondence of federal officials is considered government records under federal law and Hillary Clinton has already had to hand over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department.
On March 3, Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, declined to say why she used a personal account at the state department, but defended its use.
Hillary Clinton had complied with the “letter and spirit of the rules”, Nick Merrill said.
Her tweeted statement came just hours after the Republican-led congressional committee had demanded that Hillary Clinton turn over all emails relating to the Benghazi attack in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed.
The chairman of the Benghazi committee, Trey Gowdy, told reporters: “I want the documents. Sooner rather than later.”
Democrats on the committee have criticized the decision arguing it is a politically-motivated hunt by Republicans.
“Everything I’ve seen so far has led me to believe that this is an effort to go after Hillary Clinton, period,” said Elijah Cummings.
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