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Pompeo (R) with Netanyahu last year. Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is planning to travel to Israel next week for a 24-hour visit, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This will be the first visit of a senior foreign official to Israel since coronavirus travel restrictions came into place. This will also be Pompeo’s first trip abroad since the crisis became a global pandemic.

Pompeo is expected to arrive next Tuesday and return to Washington the next day, Israeli officials tell me.

  • The trip would come days before Israel's new government is slated to be sworn in, and Pompeo is expected to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, his rival-turned-coalition-partner.
  • It's unclear why Pompeo is planning to travel in person, or how the visit could be impacted by Israel's social distancing restrictions and emergency regulations which demand that any person arriving from abroad enter 2 weeks of confinement.
  • State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the department has “no trips to announce right now."

Update: Pompeo was asked about this report during a press briefing on Wednesday morning.

"I don’t have any travel to confirm, but I think in the upcoming hours and days you’ll see an announcement. We’re hoping to get back out and be on the ground to do the things the State Department needs to do — that we need to physically be located in those places for. We’re hoping we can get that started up before too long. It’ll start off smaller but we’re hoping to get back at it."

Go deeper

Aug 13, 2020 - World

Netanyahu says he's "still committed" to annexations despite UAE deal

Netanyahu. Photo: Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address Thursday that he remains "committed to annexing parts of the West Bank," but agreed to “temporarily suspend” those plans in order to reach a normalization deal with the UAE.

Why it matters: In a joint statement hailed as "historic" by President Trump, Israel said it would not move ahead with annexations as part of a deal for "the full normalization of relations" between Israel and the UAE. But Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) have since offered diverging statements.

Aug 13, 2020 - World

Behind the scenes: How the Israel-UAE deal came together

Trump, Kushner and Netanyahu (L-R). Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty

The breakthrough in talks between the U.S., Israel and UAE on a normalization deal came two months ago, White House officials tell me.

Behind the scenes: Talks had been ongoing for more than a year, but they gained new urgency ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's July 1 deadline to move ahead on West Bank annexations.

Aug 13, 2020 - World

Trump: West Bank annexation is "off the table" after Israel-UAE normalize relations


West Bank annexation appears to be off the table for now, after the U.S. brokered a normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Why it matters: Trump spoke about for annexation for the first time since presenting his peace plan on January 28. However, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed gave contradictory remarks about the annexation in their statements on the deal.

  • Netanyahu characterized it as a temporary suspension, while Bin Zayed said the deal stopped annexation.

For the record: Trump twice deferred questions about the differences between Israel and the UAE to the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who said: “We prioritized peace in the region over West Bank annexation...you can't have peace and annexation at the same time"

What Trump is saying: “Israel agreed not to annex parts of the West Bank. It is more than taking it off the table — they agreed not to do it. This is a very smart concession by Israel. It is off the table now”.

What the U.S. ambassador is saying: Annexation is off the table now but might be discussed again in the future.

What's next: Trump also said at the press conference he wants to convene a summit between Israel and the United Arab Emirates at the White House in three weeks to sign the deal.

  • The U.S. president sees the Israel-UAE deal as one of his landmark foreign policy achievements and a boost his election campaign.
  • Trump said more Arab countries are already talking to the White House in order to follow the UAE and normalize relations with Israel.

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