In Jerusalem Meeting, Pompeo Tells Netanyahu Region Needs Candid Dialogue for Peace

Netanyahu tells U.S. secretary of state it's time to recognize Golan Heights as under Israeli sovereignty ■ The two hold summit with Greek, Cypriot leaders on regional cooperation revolving gas pipeline

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 20, 2019.
Kobi Gideon / GPO

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday the region needs "candid dialogue" in order to achieve peace, as the two met in Jerusalem to discuss the Iranian threat, energy and regional issues, as part of the latter's Middle East tour.

"If Israel wasn't in the Golan Heights, Iran would be in the Kinneret," Netanyahu said during the meeting, and added it was time to recognize the region as under Israeli sovereignty. 

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"With a dark wave of anti-Semitism rising in Europe and in the United States, all nations, especially those in the West, must go to the barricades against bigotry," Pompeo said.

"Our challenge is especially urgent as the hot rhetoric of prejudice cloaks itself in the language of the academy, or of diplomacy or public policy. Sadly, we in the United States have seen anti-Semitic language enter even in the halls of our own capital. This should not be," he said.

Also Wednesday, Netanyahu held a summit with Pompeo, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Jerusalem. The prime minister noted as the sixth of its kind, and said it has become "one of the best regional collaborations in the world. We cooperate on everything, from fighting fires to energy."

Netanyahu said the three countries planned on laying a gas pipeline called the East-Med Pipeline from Israel, through Cyprus and Greece, into Europe.

"This will benefit out economies, provide stability and prosperity for our citizens and diversify energy sources in Europe," Netanyahu said, and stressed the importance of Pompeo also participating in the summit. "It symbolizes the fact that the U.S. supports this regional effort."

He said the three nations would openly welcome not only the United States into this cooperation, but also other countries.

Pompeo arrived in Israel Wednesday after visiting Kuwait City, and will conclude his Mideast tour in Beirut at the end of the week.

Kuwait's foreign minister said on Wednesday that a long-awaited U.S. peace proposal for the Middle East should be acceptable to all stakeholders and a factor in regional considerations. 

"We hope the plan will take into account the situation in the region and all the relevant parties," Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah said in a joint news conference he held with Pompeo.

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"We believe the strong relationship between the United States and several countries will lead to an acceptable resolution to all parties and to reaching a political solution that has been long waited for." 

Kuwait currently holds a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council, where it has championed the Palestinian cause. 

Pompeo said his talks on Wednesday also focused on enhancing defense and cybersecurity cooperation with Kuwait. 

In Jerusalem, the U.S. State Department said in a statement, "the Secretary will also participate in a meeting with Israeli, Cypriot and Greek leaders to discuss key energy and security issues facing the Eastern Mediterranean region” — a reference to the EastMed Project that will allow Israel to pipe natural gas to Europe.

In a press briefing on Friday, a senior State Department official said ahead of Pompeo's visit in Israel: “We’ll be talking about regional issues, obviously, discussing the challenges posed to the region, to Israel, to the United States by Iran and by Iranian proxies. The Secretary will reaffirm both privately and publicly during that visit our unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and its right to self-defense.”

The visit, which comes 21 days before Israel's general election, is widely seen as an attempt to boost Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political standing. The U.S. administration claims it is not trying to influence the election.