U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu after a press conference in Tel Aviv last April. (Haim Zach/GPO/Handout/Getty Images)

Netanyahu Tries to Walk Back Reference to Pompeo Meeting

During the protracted “triple-headed election” that has occupied Israel’s political landscape since before April’s “round one,” incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has proffered his relationships with world leaders as perhaps his greatest achievement. So as the nation backs in to round three of the world’s longest election, a public tiff between Netanyahu and the Trump administration cannot be a welcome development. Against this background, the PM is walking back his apparently mis-spoken reference to discussing the contentious issue of Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley when Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Portugal last week. No sooner had the Israeli leader uttered what some viewed as a “boast,” the U.S. State Department issued an unequivocal and emphatic denial that such conversation ever took place. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker told reporters that, “there was no annexation plan, full or partial, for any part of the West Bank was presented to – by Israel to the United States during the meeting.” Rather than allow the incident to rest on the apparent statement and rebuke, Prime Minister Netanyahu clarified the clarification through figures close to him, acknowledging that while there was no formal discussion of the matter, it still could have come up in conversation.

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