Pompeo lands in Israel to kick off Mideast tour, discuss more Arab-Israeli peace deals

The secretary of state will reportedly discuss the possibility of Israeli peace deals with additional Arab countries, as well as the challenges of Iran and China.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Israel Monday morning to kick off a round of visits in Middle Eastern capitals, where he will encourage others to follow the UAE’s lead in establishing formal relations with Israel.

Pompeo will be meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gaby Ashkenazi, and Mossad head Yossi Cohen.

According to the State Department, the top officials will also discuss “regional security issues related to Iran’s malicious influence… as well as cooperation in protecting the U.S. and Israeli economies from malign investors.”

The latter is a clear reference to China, whose government-owned companies have a growing presence in Israel, building large infrastructure projects that worry Washington. Israel recently rejected a Chinese bid for a high-speed 5G internet network in the country. American concerns regarding data safety no doubt played a role.

The American push for more countries to reach political agreements with Israel is front and center, however, as Pompeo flies next to Sudan and Bahrain as well as the UAE. The State Department said outright that the secretary will “express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship” when he meets with the two leaders of the transitional government in Khartoum.

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Israel radio’s Chadash al Haboker on Monday morning, “I estimate that by the end of the year there will be agreements with two other countries. It’s not a coincidence that Mike Pompeo is also going to Bahrain and Sudan [in this trip],” he said.

“This accord is a groundbreaker,” Cohen said in an earlier interview with Army Radio. “The Palestinian taboo, which put a veto on other countries, was broken. I estimate that in the coming year we will see agreements with other countries, including Bahrain, Oman, Sudan and Morocco.”

On Monday, Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani put a damper on Israeli enthusiasm.

“We reject all normalization with the Zionist entity because this would encourage it to continue violating the rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.