Pompeo Makes Lightning Trip to Israel
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday morning landed in Israel and traveled immediately to Jerusalem for separate meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz. One of the key items on the agenda was Israel’s prospective annexation of some 30% of the West Bank in accordance with the Trump Administration’s Middle East peace plan. Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to press forward with applying Israeli sovereignty to areas in the Palestinian-claimed territory that are currently being mapped out by a joint US-Israeli committee. “We’re about to form a national unity government, tomorrow. This is an opportunity to promote peace and security based on the understanding that I reached with President [Donald] Trump in my last visit to Washington in January,” Netanyahu said in reference to the US peace proposal. The coalition deal between Netanyahu and Gantz stipulates that as of July 1 the former “will be able to bring the agreement reached with the US on the application of sovereignty [in the West Bank] for the approval of the cabinet and or the Knesset [parliament].” In this respect, Pompeo stated that “there remains work yet to do and we need to make progress on that [front]. I am looking forward to it.” In an interview published with the Israel Hayom daily ahead of his arrival, the top US diplomat also reached out to the Palestinian Authority, urging President Mahmoud Abbas to re-engage in peace negotiations based on the parameters in what has been dubbed the “deal of century.” Abbas, who imposed a boycott on the White House following President Trump’s recognition in December 2017 of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, has repeatedly rejected the US initiative. Much of the international community has likewise warned Israel over the potential move, with the European Union going so far as to threaten to hit Jerusalem with sanctions. Other important issues discussed during Pompeo’s trip included combating Iran’s ongoing interventionism throughout the Middle East, including a recent Tehran-attributed cyber-attack on Israeli civilian water infrastructure. Also of concern to the US is Israel’s growing economic ties to China, given longstanding accusations that Beijing has used foreign investments as a means of gaining influence over, and allegedly spying on, countries.