Mike Pompeo arrives in Israel to press Trump’s Middle East peace push
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Israel on Monday, on the first leg of his Mideast press the momentum of the Trump administration’s Arab-Israeli peace push.
Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem and the two were expected to discuss the recently announced historic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, brokered by Washington, to establish diplomatic ties. The two were expected to also discuss Iran and China.
The agreement delivered a key foreign policy victory to President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.
Earlier this month, the US, Israel and the UAE announced the deal to establish full diplomatic relations, which also requires Israel to freeze its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank sought by the Palestinians as part of their future state.
Later in the trip, Pompeo was to meet with Netanyahu’s partner in the government and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, as well as Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
After his Israel stop Pompeo was also slated to visit Sudan, the UAE and Bahrain, with additional stops in the Gulf possible, the State Department had said. In Sudan, the secretary of state said he would push for “deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship.”
Ahead of Pompeo’s arrival, the Israeli military said it struck militant targets in the Gaza Strip early on Monday, in response to incendiary balloons launched into Israel the day before. It was the latest exchange as tensions between the two sides intensified in recent weeks.
The army said it bombed “military posts and an underground infrastructure” belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Militants affiliated with Hamas have launched scores of incendiary balloons into southern Israel in recent weeks, causing extensive damage to farmland, in a bid to pressure Israel to ease the blockade imposed since Hamas took control of the territory in 2007. On Friday, Palestinian militants launched 12 rockets at Israel, nine of which were intercepted, in the largest outbreak of violence in recent months.
Israel has responded the balloons and sporadic rocket fire with airstrikes on militant positions.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and numerous smaller skirmishes in the past 13 years. Last week Egyptian mediators tried to ease tensions and bolster the informal truce between Israel and Hamas that has largely held since the 2014 war in Gaza.
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