Mike Pompeo

The U.S. Secretary of State is expected to travel to Israel next week for a 24-hour visit and talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Iran is likely to be high on the agenda.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Israel next week, the first visit of a senior foreign official to Israel since the Jewish state closed its borders to foreigners due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The trip also marks Pompeo’s first trip outside of the United States during the worldwide health crisis, the Axios news website reported Wednesday.

Israeli officials commented that Pompeo is expected to arrive in Israel next Tuesday and will return to Washington the following day.

Pompeo’s visit coincides with the period during which the new national unity government is expected to be sworn in. He will most likely hold extensive talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz. The two are slated to share power in the new government with Netanyahu serving as prime minister for 18 months before stepping aside to let Gantz take the helm.

Gantz, a relative newcomer to politics, is a former chief-of-staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

The report said it is not clear why Pompeo is coming in person at a time when world leaders are staying home and holding video calls due to the coronavirus crisis. Netanyahu has made it a point of following his Israel’s health guidelines by maintaining social distancing and not shaking hands.

Under current health regulations, anybody arriving from abroad is required to immediately self-isolate for two weeks.

On Tuesday, Pompeo pledged to use “every tool” to maintain the United Nations’ mandated arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October.

“What the American people should know is President Donald Trump is committed to using every tool we have to prevent the Iranians from getting more conventional arms. I am convinced that we have the capacity to do that,” Pompeo tweeted.

Russia has said it will oppose any extension of the arms embargo on Tehran and China is also unlikely to support continuing the ban, RFE reported.

Bloomberg News noted that even if the embargo were to expire “plenty of obstacles remain for Iran to buy weapons. Secondary U.S. sanctions, for instance, would make any country think twice before selling to Iran. The European Union also has its own arms embargo on Iran.”