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Pence said planning Israel visit a week before Biden’s inauguration

Minister in Netanyahu’s party says ‘it’s likely that during the trip itself there will be a declaration of normalization’ with another Arab state

US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen disembark from a plane upon their arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport to attend the World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem memorial center, January 23, 2020. (Ammar Awad/Pool Photo via AP)
US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen disembark from a plane upon their arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport to attend the World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem memorial center, January 23, 2020. (Ammar Awad/Pool Photo via AP)

US Vice President Mike Pence is expected to visit Israel in January, a week before Joe Biden is sworn in as the new president, Hebrew media reported Sunday.

There was no word on the purpose of the potential visit, but Army Radio quoted Israeli officials saying there were two more states that could normalize relations with Israel before US President Donald Trump leaves office on January 20.

The two countries weren’t named, though Saudi Arabia was reportedly not one of them.

The radio station said the planned date for Pence’s trip is January 13, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is required to attend a plea hearing in his trial on corruption charges.

US Vice President Mike Pence, accompanied by PM Netanyahu visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, January 23, 2020 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Pence was last in Israel in January for the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem, where visiting dignitaries gathered to commemorate the Nazi genocide of Jews during World War II and mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

The US Embassy in Jerusalem wouldn’t comment on the Pence’s reported travel plans, which were confirmed by Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“Pence is planning on visiting Israel. I don’t want to commit to the dates,” Akunis told Army Radio. “It’s likely that during the trip itself there will be a declaration of normalization.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, January 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

The reports came after Trump announced Thursday that Morocco was normalizing ties with Israel, making it the fourth Arab country since August to do as part of a US-brokered agreement — following the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

As part of the announcement, Trump announced the US would recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region, a longtime goal of the North African kingdom.

US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, on August 30, 2020. (Debbie Hill/Pool/AFP)

Also Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien was due in Israel, where he was set to meet in the afternoon with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Their talks were expected to focus on the Abraham Accords, as the normalization deals between Israel and the Arab states are known, as well as Iran.

O’Brien visited Israel in August, when he was part of a joint US-Israeli delegation that flew to Abu Dhabi following the normalization pact between the Jewish state and the UAE.

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