CIA Chief in Israel, West Bank to Meet Bennett, Herzog, Palestinian Officials

Jonathan Lis
Haaretz
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William Burns, CIA director, testifies during his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, in February.
William Burns, CIA director, testifies during his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, in February.Credit: POOL/ REUTERS
Jonathan Lis
Haaretz

CIA Director William J. Burns begins his first working visit to Israel and West Bank as the agency's director on Tuesday, where he will meet with top Israeli and Palestinian officials. 

Burns is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday and with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and top Israeli political and defense officials later this week. 

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According to an Axios report, Burns is also slated to meet with the new Mossad chief David Barnea, who assumed office two months ago.

Burns' visit comes against the backdrop of Tehran's efforts to achieve nuclear capabilities as well as a possible return to its nuclear deal following the inauguration last week of a new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi.

In addition, Burns is expected to discuss Iran's involvement in a wave of attacks in recent months against Western targets and Israeli-owned ships, including the attack on the Mercer Street merchant tanker about two weeks ago. Moreover, last week, Hezbollah fired 19 rockets at Israel over its northern border with Lebanon.

The CIA director will also visit the West Bank, where he is slated to meet with Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. According to the report, the CIA maintains close ties with the Palestinian security forces, which were kept even during Trump's term when cooperation was halted.

Burns, a fluent Arabic speaker, was Deputy Secretary of State and an ambassador, serving as a diplomat for over 30 years and is regarded as one of the most respected voices on foreign policy issues for decades.

Burns was the Obama administration’s first lead negotiator in the talks leading to the Iranian accord in 2015, prior to being replaced by Wendy Sherman – Biden’s nominee for deputy Secretary of State. For his part, Burns has long argued that the nuclear deal actually makes Israel safer.

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