Pompeo said set to visit Israel next week during first trip as top US diplomat
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Pompeo said set to visit Israel next week during first trip as top US diplomat

Former CIA director expected to be confirmed by Senate on Thursday as new secretary of state

CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on worldwide threats, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on worldwide threats, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Incoming US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is slated to visit Israel as early as next week as part of his first trip abroad in his new post, Channel 10 news reported Thursday.

Pompeo is expected to be confirmed in the position by the US Senate on Thursday, and will fly to Brussels on Friday for a NATO foreign ministers summit.

His trip will then take him to several other countries — including Israel, an unnamed senior Israeli official told the station.

Pompeo’s predecessor Rex Tillerson only visited Israel once during his year-long tenure, joining President Donald Trump’s entourage during his visit to the Jewish state. Pompeo, who served as CIA director during the same period, visited Israel three times.

There is no immediate word on whether Pompeo plans to visit the Palestinian Authority, whose leaders have been refusing to meet with senior US officials since Trump’s December 6 declaration that the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On Wednesday, Hadashot television news reported that Pompeo was the favorite to lead the official US delegation to Israel next month for the opening of the new embassy in Jerusalem.

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

The White House and State Department have declined to comment on either report.

Channel 10 reported on Monday that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may be the cabinet member to lead the delegation, which may number as many as 250 people, including some 40 politicians.

The embassy opening will take place on May 14, the civil anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948. Israel celebrates its Independence Day according to the Jewish calendar — this year it fell on April 18.

Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump are also said to be considering attending.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin holds a press conference during the IMF/World Bank spring meeting in Washington, DC on April 21, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

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

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 planning 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.

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