Mike Pompeo lands in Israel for whirlwind 24-hour visit

PA invites Hamas, Islamic Jihad to meeting on Israeli annexation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Israel, May 13, 2020 (photo credit: ZIV SOKOLOV/US EMBASSY JERUSALEM)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Israel, May 13, 2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Israel early Wednesday for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz.
The Iranian threat is expected to be at the top of the agenda, as well American and Israeli efforts to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, and Israel’s implementation of the Trump peace plan, including settlement annexation.
"This meeting is important enough to hold face to face," Pompeo said in an interview with Israel Hayom, the Hebrew-language daily owned by Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to US President Donald Trump's campaign.
This is Pompeo's first trip abroad since lockdown regulations were set in place to fight the spread of coronavirus across the US.
Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer arrived in Israel with Pompeo.
Pomeo said he, Netanyahu and Gantz will address "Iranian threats, and how we will continue working together to deter them and prevent them from attaining nuclear weapons."
The Secretary of State warned that in October, the Iranians will be able to bolster their conventional weapons capabilities in a way that will allow them to sponsor terrorism around the world. This, in turn, will make it easier for Teheran "to continue implementing a plan that in the end will increase the risks that they will have a nuclear weapon."
The Secretary of State repeated his remarks from last month that whether to annex West Bank settlements or not "is an Israeli decision."
"I want to understand what the new government thinks of it," he said. "Some months have passed, and in the end, it's an Israeli decision. We will discuss the best way to implement the vision for peace that the prime minister agreed to."
The Netanyahu and Gantz's new government is set to be sworn in on Thursday. Their coalition agreement sets July 1 as the earliest date on which Netanyahu can hold a vote on the application of Israeli sovereignty to settlements and the Jordan Valley. The Trump peace plan would allow Israeli law to be extended to about 30% of the West Bank, with the rest being dedicated to a potential Palestinian state.
Pompeo said he is aware of Jordan and Gulf States' concerns about annexation and that the US took that into consideration when preparing the peace plan.
"We created a plan that gives a better life to the Palestinian people, and that is also important to those Arab countries," he stated.
The Palestinian Authority invited representatives of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to attend a meeting of the Palestinian leadership to discuss Israel’s plan to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.
Hamas and PIJ, which don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist, have repeatedly called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to walk away from the 1993 Oslo Accords and cut all ties with Israel. They have also called for stepping up “resistance” activities in the West Bank in response to protest the Israeli plan.
Palestinian officials said that representatives of the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist terrorist group that is also opposed to peace talks with Israel, have been invited to attend the meeting in Ramallah on Saturday.
The PLO Executive Committee is expected to hold a meeting on Thursday – the second of its kind in the past week – to discuss action against the plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.
The decision to invite Hamas, PIJ and PFLP officials to the upcoming meeting of the Palestinian leadership aims to send a warning message to Israel and the Trump administration, a senior PA official said. “The president wants to show that there’s a consensus among Palestinians regarding the annexation plan,” the official told The Jerusalem Post.
Hamas and PIJ did not immediately respond to Abbas’s invitation, and it was unclear whether the PFLP would attend the meeting. Unlike Hamas and PIJ, the PFLP is one of a number of groups forming the PLO.
The official told the Post that he expected Hamas and PIJ would accept the invitation.
Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said that representatives of all Palestinian factions have been invited to Saturday’s meeting. The Palestinian leadership, he added, has devised a plan to respond to respond to the “annexation,” and it will be discussed during the meeting.
Al-Ahmed said that details of the Palestinian response will be announced after the meeting. Israel and the US administration would bear the full consequences of the situation in the aftermath of the “annexation” plan, he cautioned in an interview with the Gulf online media outlet Erem News.
The Fatah official estimated, however, Pompeo would try to persuade Netanyahu and Gantz to postpone the plan, due to the threat it poses to the situation in the region.
Ahead of the planned meeting, several Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip called on the PA to halt security coordination with Israel. Representatives of the factions also appealed to Palestinians in the West Bank to launch a “popular uprising” against Israel.
Hamas official Ashraf Zayed, who attended the rally, warned Israel against implementing its plan to apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, Northern Dead Sea and settlements.
“We warn the occupation that the annexation decision will cause it grave damage,” Zayed said. “Our people won’t allow this kind of conspiracy to pass. This step will lead to reactions that the occupation won’t be able to control.”
Pompeo does not plan to stay in Israel overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the US and Israel are closely coordinating in order to allow the visit to proceed without a need for him to enter quarantine.
Dr. William Walters, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Operations at the Bureau of Medical Services said on Friday that the sides have “been able to develop a regimen of risk mitigation steps that we feel…creates a safe environment for both the Secretary and the traveling party through close coordination with the embassy in Jerusalem as well as our Israeli counterparts.”
Anyone who comes into contact with Pompeo will have been tested for coronavirus in advance, and only people who have been screened will be allowed within six feet of him, Walters said.
Omri Nahmias contributed to this report.