JERUSALEM, Israel – United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Israel Wednesday morning for a whirlwind six-hour trip to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the coronavirus pandemic, Iran, and his plans to annex Jewish settlement communities in the West Bank.
“We’d like to talk about strengthening our cooperation, our partnerships in battling the coronavirus plague,” Netanyahu said during a joint press conference with Pompeo.
Pompeo told Netanyahu the US is interested in collaborating with Israelis to fight the coronavirus and “deliver good outcomes and decrease risks for people across the world.”
Photo Credit: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem
Alluding to China, Pompeo thanked Netanyahu for sharing information about Israel’s COVID-19 outbreak, “unlike some other countries that try and obfuscate and hide information."
Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told CBN News the US is deeply concerned about agreements between Israel and China, especially a contract giving Chine control of Israel’s main port of Haifa for 25 years.
“You know, the US Navy docks in Haifa, very close to the port that the Chinese are going to be running. And so, obviously, there's security concern, there's political concern,” Dubowitz explained.
Dubowitz says Israel gets the message.
“They've taken some significant steps in the right including setting up an investment advisory, which will review future investments in order to not make the mistake they made with the China port,” he said. “The security service with Israel are ensuring that the Chinese Communist Party does not use that for nefarious objectives or for intelligence penetration.”
Netanyahu said the next item on their agenda is to address “unremitting Iranian aggression and terror.”
Netanyahu thanked the US for taking a tough stance against Iran by withdrawing from the controversial 2015 Iran Deal, confronting “the masters of Iranian terror,” and continuing its strict arms embargo against the Islamic Republic.
“I want to discuss how we can continue in our partnership to combat and confront and roll back Iran’s aggression in the Middle East and Syria and everywhere else,” said Netanyahu.
Lastly, the prime minister said he hopes to begin implementing some of the tenets of President Donald Trump’s peace plan.
After fighting a more than year-long political deadlock, Netanyahu now has the backing he needs to form the next Israeli government and push his agenda forward. One of his biggest priorities is annexing Jewish communities in the West Bank – the heart of biblical Judea and Samaria.
According to the coalition deal signed by Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the prime minister can bring forward legislation to annex West Bank settlement communities and the Jordan Valley on July 1.
The agreement says any step to annex these areas must be coordinated with the US. Trump’s peace plan allows for the possibility of the US recognizing Israel's sovereignty provided that Israel agrees to negotiate under the peace-plan framework.
Although Pompeo said he looks forward to making progress in implementing Trump’s vision for peace, he has yet to say if Israel has Washington’s support for the annexation.
Pompeo said the unilateral move is up to Israel and told Israeli media he was visiting to hear what Netanyahu’s new government thinks about the annexation.
Supporters of the widely condemned annexation plan believe Israel only has a few months to take control of parts of the West Bank before November’s Presidential election.