In final days of Trump administration, Pompeo showers presents on Israel

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Nov 20, 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was wined and dined this week as he paid a sentimental farewell three-day go to to Israel.

Pompeo’s go to spanned the nation and he arrived with as many presents as he may carry. He flew by helicopter to the West Bank settlement Psagot, setting a historic precedent for a go to by a US secretary of state to the settlements. He sipped from a bottle labeled “Pompeo Wine,” an honor second solely to the one conferred on his boss, President Donald Trump, who has a future Golan Heights settlement named after him. Pompeo was then choppered off for a uncommon go to by a US secretary of state to the Golan, an space Trump acknowledged as sovereign Israeli territory. There, he acquired a briefing by former military chief and present Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

“This trip was more of a pilgrimage,” a senior Israeli official in Jerusalem advised Al-Monitor on situation of anonymity. “Pompeo was here on a visit more as an evangelical pilgrim than a secretary of state, but both sides enjoyed every minute.”

Throughout the final 4 years, the Trump administration has bestowed many presents on Israel and on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This week, Pompeo had one final present earlier than leaving his publish: the US declaration by which any longer, Israeli merchandise made in West Bank settlements can be labeled within the United States as “Made in Israel” somewhat than distinguished from different Israeli items. “The only problem with all of this,” the Israeli official added, “is that it will all be over in just over a month. Let us hope these last-minute grabs do not anger [President-elect Joe] Biden’s people and lead them to overturn the declarations and actions of the final Trump days.”

Two points stay on Israel’s agenda for the ultimate days of Israel’s greatest ever buddy within the White House. The first is a doable US assault on Iran’s nuclear program infrastructure. The second is sanctions on Iran that may thwart the declared intentions of the Biden administration to undertake confidence-building measures vis-à-vis Iran to be able to negotiate a brand new nuclear deal.

Officials in Jerusalem see no prospects for any US assault, particularly after the weird Nov. 12 declaration by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who mentioned, “We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. … We take an oath to the Constitution.” Thus, Israel’s solely remaining choice is to press Trump on sanctions, which that got here up in Pompeo’s talks with Netanyahu and Ashkenazi.

Pompeo acquired an in depth safety briefing as he stood on Mount Bental overlooking Syria, a day after Israel mounted an assault on Iranian targets there. In a departure from its ordinary habits, Israel acknowledged duty for the strikes and posted movies of what it described because the bombing of eight Iranian and Syrian navy infrastructure amenities on Syrian soil. The assault adopted the invention of explosives planted alongside the Golan border with Syria, which Israel blamed on Iranian intelligence Unit 840, directed by the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The strike, which reportedly resulted in 10 fatalities, was a transparent and public sign that Israel wouldn’t permit Iran and its proxies to approach its border with Syria. Pompeo expressed eager curiosity within the particulars of the incident and Ashkenazi thanked him and the Trump administration for enhancing Israel’s safety.

Though Israel would have been happier to have Pompeo’s go to and declarations at the beginning of Trump’s time period somewhat than at is finish, Netanyahu’s individuals haven’t any complaints. “Secretary Pompeo is a true admirer of Israel,” a senior Israeli diplomatic supply advised Al-Monitor on situation of anonymity. “His support for Israel is unconditional and totally authentic. His tour here may have been the opening salvo of a 2024 presidential run and maybe not. Either way, we are happy about what he did and what he said and we do not believe the next administration will reverse things.”

Netanyahu is making an attempt to arrange for a Biden administration, significantly Biden’s relations with Iran. He swore to keep away from the errors he made with President Barack Obama that poisoned their relationship and resulted in Netanyahu’s exclusion from the negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program.

Netanyahu faces a Dec. 23 deadline for approving the state funds, which if not met would routinely disband the Knesset and convey on new elections. He can be higher served by sticking to his partnership with Gantz and Ashkenazi somewhat than choosing one more spherical of elections from which he’ll doubtless emerge beholden to Yamina chief Naftali Bennett and be pressured to kind a radical right-wing authorities based mostly on a slim Knesset majority.

Pompeo undoubtedly did the perfect he may to assist. “May I not be the last secretary of state to visit this beautiful land,” Pompeo wrote within the Psagot vineyard guestbook. While Netanyahu undoubtedly agrees, he is aware of that he and the Israeli proper are in for a troublesome interval as they wean themselves off the lavish way of life afforded by Trump.