(May 13, 2020 / JNS) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel on Wednesday morning for a six-hour visit to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and discuss the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan and Iranian aggression.
Upon arriving, he held a press conference with Netanyahu where he called for progress on U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity,” vision.
“There remains work yet to do, and we need to make progress on that. I am looking forward to it,” he said, ahead of their private meeting.
As part of the plan outlined by the Trump administration, the U.S. is prepared to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria for assurances that the Jewish state would be ready to negotiate with the Palestinians on a permanent peace deal. While there have been reports that the U.S. may urge Israel to delay annexation plans, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman says that Washington is “ready” to recognize Israeli sovereignty.
Pompeo also blasted the Tehran for using its resources “to foment terror across the world, even when the people of Iran are struggling so mightily.”
This, he added, “tells you a lot about the soul of those … who lead the country.”
Pompeo, whose visit was the first by a senior diplomatic official since Israel shutdown its borders in March due to the coronavirus, also expressed his condolences for Amit Ben-Yigal, the 21-year-old Israel Defense Forces’ soldier killed on Tuesday morning in a Palestinian attack, Pompeo said “it reminds us of all of the importance of making sure that people all across the world know that Israel has the right to defend itself [and] that America will consistently support you in that effort.”
He also noted the two-year anniversary of the move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“Much has happened since then, and much in our relationship has continued to grow in those 24 months, as well,” he said, adding, “I want to thank you [Netanyahu] for that, personally, in making that happen. It’s important for America; it’s important for Israel; it’s important for democracies across the world.”
Discussing U.S.-Israeli cooperation on the coronavirus front, Pompeo said “we’ll certainly talk about the challenges the globe faces with COVID, Israeli technology, Israeli medical expertise—all the things that you and I and our teams can work on together. I know we’ll deliver good outcomes [and] decrease risk for people all across the world from this global pandemic.”
In a veiled reference to and dig at China, he added, “You’re a great partner. You share your information, unlike some other countries that try and obfuscate and hide information. And we’ll talk about that country, too.”
Pompeo’s address followed words of welcome by Netanyahu, who is engaged in finalizing the distribution of ministries to his coalition partners ahead of the swearing-in of the national-unity government on Thursday.
“I think that this [new government] is an opportunity to promote peace and security, based on the understandings that I reached with President Trump [during] my last visit in Washington in January,” he said. “And these are all tremendous challenges and opportunities. We can do them because we have such a powerful bond that makes the alliance between Israel and the United States stand out, certainly for us, but I think for many other countries. … There is an unbreakable bond of values and interests that has kept this alliance together, but also kept it growing and growing and growing. It’s never been stronger.”
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