Pompeo to visit Jerusalem, reaffirm U.S. ‘unwavering’ support for Israel, two weeks before elections

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a news conference with with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto at the foreign ministry in Budapest, Feb. 11, 2019. Photo: Laszlo Balogh/Getty images

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, will visit Israel next week, “reaffirming the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security” just two weeks before Israeli elections.

Why it matters: A high-level visit so close to an election is unusual, but the Trump administration has indicated its support for Netanyahu, one of his closest allies among world leaders. President Donald Trump has reposted on social media Netanyahu’s campaign poster, which features the two leaders shaking hands. The Trump White House has also delayed releasing an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in part because it is mindful of the Israeli elections

“In Jerusalem, the Secretary will meet with Israeli officials to engage on critical regional issues, including countering the Iranian regime’s malign influence and reaffirming the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” said the statement released Friday by the State Department.

Pompeo will also discuss “the Administration’s dedication to monitoring and combatting anti-Semitism,” it said. “While in Jerusalem, the Secretary will also participate in a meeting with Israeli, Cypriot, and Greek leaders to discuss key energy and security issues facing the Eastern Mediterranean region.”

In 1996, President Bill Clinton organized an anti-terrorism conference ahead of elections that year in to order to make Shimon Peres, the incumbent, seem strong on defense. Peres lost to Netanyahu that year. Netanyahu’s supporters said President Barack Obama was trying to undermine the Israeli leader when he refused to meet with him ahead of the 2015 elections.