Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to talk about Iran’s regional aggression and the nuclear deal with Tehran with he meets this afternoon with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Today we will welcome US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a true friend of Israel,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
“I think it is important that he came to Israel during his first trip as secretary of state...I will discuss with him developments in the region, Iran's growing aggression and of course the nuclear agreement with Iran, about which there is going to be a decision soon,” Netanyahu said.
“Relations between Israel and the United States are stronger than ever,” Netanyahu said.
Pompeo was sworn into office on Thursday as Rex Tillerson’s replacement and left immediately for a Friday meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
He landed Saturday at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh, where he was greeted by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and other Saudi officials.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert tweeted after Pompeo’s meeting with Jubeir that “Saudi Arabia plays an important leadership role in working toward a peaceful and prosperous future for the region.
“A strong US-Saudi partnership is critical to that effort,” she added.
Pompeo met Sunday morning with King Salman before leaving for Israel, where he is expected to deliver a public statement with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.
Brian Hook, Pompeo’s senior policy adviser, said in Riyadh that Iran’s missile program would be a major topic in talks in Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Hook, who is negotiating changes to the Iran nuclear deal with European allies, called Iran’s missile program a threat to international peace and security.
He called on Europe and others to impose sanctions to curb Iran’s missile program.
“We are urging nations around the world to sanction any individuals and entities associated with Iran’s missile program, and it has also been a big part of discussions with Europeans.”
US President Donald Trump will decide by May 12 whether to restore American economic sanctions on Tehran, which would be a severe blow to the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and six major powers. Netanyahu has long opposed the deal.
Pompeo is expected to travel to Jordan to speak with King Abdullah before heading back to Washington on Monday.
He picked those three Middle East stops – Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan – “because of all that is going on,” Nauert said.
Pompeo arrives just two weeks before the US is scheduled to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday, “I wish to thank President Trump again for the decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.
“At the time, I said that there would be other countries that would join this process and I can tell you that these things are indeed happening,” Netanyahu said.
Trump said Friday he might travel to Israel for the opening of the embassy. “I may go,” he said.
Administration officials have previously said it was unlikely Trump would lead the delegation, and that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, senior adviser Jared Kushner and Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, would travel to Jerusalem instead.
Guatemala plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem in May as well. Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes said on Friday that he plans to relocate his country’s embassy to Jerusalem before leaving office in August. Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said it was still unclear if there were concrete plans to make this happen. Romania, the Czech Republic and Honduras have also spoken about moving their embassies, but have yet to finalize their plans.
Channel 2 reported that the Americans will present their Middle East peace plan, with enticements to the Palestinians, soon after the embassy is moved.