Ahead of April election, Pompeo to travel to Israel next week
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Ahead of April election, Pompeo to travel to Israel next week

State Department official says visit is not intended to interfere with Israeli domestic politics; secretary to also visit Lebanon and Kuwait

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press after attending the U.N. Security Council at United Nations Headquarters, Jan. 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press after attending the U.N. Security Council at United Nations Headquarters, Jan. 26, 2019 (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to the Middle East next week, with a stop in Israel, as the Trump administration prepares to unveil its highly anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in April.

America’s top diplomat told students in Iowa on Monday that he would travel to Lebanon, Israel and Kuwait “next week.” The State Department has yet to give exact dates for the trip but confirmed it will take place before Israel’s general election.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of the Trump administration, is seeking re-election on April 9. The campaign intensified last week with Israel’s attorney general announcing will seek to indict Netanyahu on criminal charges, including fraud and breach of trust, and one case of bribery, pending a hearing.

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said Pompeo’s trip was not intended to send any message. “Israel is an ally,” Palladino said. “We’re not going to get involved in the domestic politics of another country.”

So far, an itinerary has not been released, and it’s not clear who Pompeo will meet with while visiting the Jewish state.

Earlier this year, Pompeo visited several Mideast countries, including Jordan, Egypt and Gulf nations, largely to discuss the administration’s approach to countering Iran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

On that trip, Pompeo planned to visit Kuwait but had to cut the trip short for what he said were family reasons. His visit there now, the State Department said, is to make up for not making it to the Persian Gulf nation last time.

“This is very much the continuation of that previous trip,” Palladino said.

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