The US State Department announced Friday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Israel to express his support for the new Israeli government, resuming his foreign trips that were suspended due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
The US Secretary of State, who strongly supports Israel, will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner, Benny Gantz, in Jerusalem on May 13, when the new government is sworn in.
Pompeo’s visit comes as President Donald Trump’s administration has expressed support for Netanyahu’s plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, despite Palestinian warnings that this would kill prospects for a long-term peace agreement.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that Pompeo “will discuss American and Israeli efforts to combat the Covid-19 epidemic and regional security issues related to Iran’s malign influence”.
She added, “The commitment of the United States to Israel was not stronger than it was under President Trump’s leadership”.
David Schenker, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, said Pompeo will travel to the Hebrew state at the invitation of the Israeli government.
He added, “Israel is fortunate to have such strong and sophisticated leadership as it is in a time of challenges”.
He also praised Israel’s decisive move in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic, explaining that “its performance is better than many other countries in surrounding the threat”.
Pompeo would thus be one of the first high-ranking officials in the world to resume their journeys as the gradual easing of isolation measures imposed to stem the spread of the emerging corona virus.
Pompeo’s last trip abroad took place on 23 March, which led him to Afghanistan and Qatar.
During that he criticized Afghan officials for their internal conflicts, and he also met representatives of the Taliban movement to discuss the agreement to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan.
In response to a question on Wednesday about his visit to Israel, which was reported by Israeli media, Pompeo said he “hopes to resume foreign trips and field work” after the restrictions imposed to contain the epidemic.
“I will start slowly, but we hope that we will return to it, as we hope to relocate the economic wheel, not only in the United States, but all over the world as well,” he told reporters.
In January, Trump unveiled his long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East.
Israel was given the green light to annex the Jordan Valley – the strategic area that makes up 30 percent of the West Bank area – and the settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which, in the eyes of the US administration, have become an integral part of the unified capital of Israel.
Netanyahu welcomed the plan, which he described as “historic,” but faced criticism from the Palestinians and the European Union, who said it was closing the door to a two-state solution in the Middle East.
The new government can decide to go ahead with annexing the territories from July, but it should consult, in accordance with the agreement under which the United States was formed, which does not object to this.
Gantz will take over the government after 18 months, under the same agreement.