Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes 8-hour visit to Israel in first foreign trip since start of pandemic

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem, May 13, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a whirlwind visit to Israel on Wednesday, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Prime Minister-designate Benny Gantz, the incoming defense minister. and top Israeli security officials.

Pompeo’s eight-hour visit, which also included meeting with top Israeli security officials, was his first travel abroad since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He arrived in the morning wearing a mask featuring red, white and blue stars and stripes.

Pompeo also met with incoming foreign minister and Gantz ally Gabi Ashkenazi, a former military chief of staff.

Pompeo did not see U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who was having what was described as “mild upper-respiratory symptoms,” according to the embassy. Though Friedman has a negative test for COVID-19, the embassy decided that he should not be near Pompeo out of an “abundance of caution.”

In remarks before their meeting at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, Netanyahu and Pompeo said they would talk about the coronavirus pandemic, the threat to the region from Iran and the Trump administration’s peace plan. No statement was issued after the meeting.

Gantz met with Pompeo at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. According to a statement released by Blue and White after the meeting, they discussed “Iran’s recent strides toward advancing its nuclear project and entrenching itself in Syria and Lebanon,” and “further discussed President Trump’s peace plan and looked at the different avenues for bringing about its realization.”

Pompeo flew out of Ben Gurion Airport early Wednesday evening.