Pompeo could lead US delegation to Jerusalem embassy opening
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Pompeo could lead US delegation to Jerusalem embassy opening

White House said ready to send secretary of state-designate, pending his Senate approval as chief diplomat

US Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 12, 2018. (JIM WATSON/AFP)
US Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 12, 2018. (JIM WATSON/AFP)

Mike Pompeo could lead the official delegation to Israel next month for the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, if he is confirmed by the Senate to take up the position of US secretary of state.

There has been no official announcement of Pompeo’s trip because the White House is waiting until after a Senate confirmation vote scheduled for later this week, Hadashot TV news reported Wednesday.

The US embassy declined to confirm any details about the delegation that will see the mission officially move from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital. Pompeo’s Senate vote is set for Thursday.

Channel 10 news reported Monday that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is to lead a delegation of 250 people from the United States, including some 40 politicians, to the opening ceremony on May 14, the civil day of Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948.

Among those participating in the event will be US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, as well as 40 senators and representatives, the report said. The Times of Israel reported last week that Kushner and Ivanka Trump were likely to attend.

Kushner has been a key architect of the US administration’s efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

The US Consulate in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, adjoining a possible site for the US Embassy (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Trump, who formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the embassy relocation on December 6, had mulled attending the inauguration himself, but reportedly decided against it.

Republican senators Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham are also reportedly expected to attend, as is Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. The group is also expected to include Jewish leaders and heads of pro-Israel Christian organizations.

The embassy will initially open with office space for US Ambassador David Friedman and a small staff at an interim site in capital’s Arnona neighborhood, US official told The Times of Israel last week. Over the coming years a permanent site will be selected while most staff continue to work in Tel Aviv.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital and his announcement to move the embassy was met with widespread anger among the Palestinians, prompting calls for enormous protest events, the largest of them planned for the Gaza Strip.

The expected protests will also coincide with Nakba Day, a national day of Palestinian mourning marking the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding, commemorated every year on May 15.

Wednesday’s Hadashot news report said that Israel has been trying to calm tensions with the Palestinians, using Egyptian officials to contact Hamas in the Gaza Strip and international diplomatic resources to placate the Palestinian Authority.

Tensions along the Israeli-Gazan border are already high following four consecutive weeks of Friday protests, organized by the Hamas terror group, that have led to deadly clashes along the border fence.

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