Pompeo visits Israel, Netanyahu calls for Israeli sovereignty in Golan

Pompeo on Wednesday lauded the White House’s ties with Israel and promised to step up pressure on Iran.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

During a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Israel on Wednesday, the White House announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be welcomed in Washington over two days next week with Israel just two weeks from the April 9 polls.

Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the Trump administration’s strong stance against Iran, which routinely threatens to destroy Israel.

The prime minister also referenced Iran’s attempt to set up a terrorist network to target Israel from the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967.

“You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan,” he said. “You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.”

Pompeo did not mention the issue, but the administration is considering recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase “Israeli-occupied” from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it “Israeli-controlled.”

Israeli and U.S. officials say they expect an announcement on U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan could come as early as Netanyahu’s visit to Washington next week. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had not yet been made public.

Pompeo touted last month’s Mideast conference in Poland , where he said dozens of countries discussed ways “to stop Iran’s regional rampage.”

Referring to Iranian leaders’ pursuit of the “annihilation and destruction” of Israel, he pledged continued American support.

“With such threats a daily reality of Israeli life, we maintain our unparalleled commitment to Israel’s security and firmly support your right to defend yourself,” he said.

In recent years, Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria to halt Iranian arms transfers to the Hezbollah terror group, and to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in the country.

Iranian and Hezbollah forces have been supporting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s troops since the early days of the eight-year civil war, during which the Assad regime has slaughtered thousands of Syrians.

Netanyahu said he was working closely with the U.S. “to roll back Iranian aggression” in the region and around the world. ”

There is no limitation to our freedom of action and we appreciate very much the fact that the United States backs up our actions,” he said.

He also welcomed last year’s U.S. withdrawal from the international nuclear deal with Iran, as well as tough U.S. sanctions that were re-imposed on the country.

“This pressure is working,” he said. “We need to increase it. We need to expand it.”

Pompeo arrived in Jerusalem after a stop in Kuwait, where he renewed calls for a resolution to a festering dispute between Qatar and four other Arab nations, all of them America’s partners in the Middle East. Kuwait has been attempting to mediate an end to the crisis.

Pompeo said the dispute, which has roiled the Gulf Cooperation Council for almost two years, is hindering efforts to combat regional threats posed by Iran, ISIS and other terrorist entities.

In Israel, Pompeo also attended a summit of Mediterranean natural gas producers Israel, Cyprus and Greece.

From Israel, he is to travel to Lebanon.