Regarding the F-35 sale to UAE, he says: ‘We now will have opportunity in ways that we couldn’t before, but we are committed to maintaining [Israel’s] security.’
By YAAKOV KATZ
It is inevitable that all countries across the Middle East, and one day even Iran, will come around to the understanding that it is in their interest to normalize ties with the State of Israel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post.
“I hope one day that the Iranians will normalize with Israel as well,” he said. “I have every expectation that the world will come to see Israel as the rightful Jewish homeland, and that it is going to be here. So, I leave no country out from my commitment to my core belief that one day the world will recognize that this is the right thing to do for their country – and I would include Iran in that as well.”
Pompeo landed in Israel Monday morning and met during the day with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to discuss a range of issues, including the recent announcement of a normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.Later in the week, he will fly to Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE to continue efforts to get more countries to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. He said that he could not discuss which countries would be next in line after the UAE, but that more would come.
“I couldn’t tell you the timing and I couldn’t tell you which countries, but I think as other nations around the world come to see that there is enormous benefit to the relationship – from a diplomatic perspective, an economic perspective, and from a security perspective – I think that other nations will see that it is the right thing to do,” he said. “I think they will also come to see that building out this set of relationships is the pathway that will lead to stability in the Middle East as well.”In the interview, Pompeo said that the duration of Israel’s commitment not to annex parts of the West Bank under the normalization deal with the UAE will “have better clarity” when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed meet with US President Donald Trump to sign the treaty, possibly in the coming weeks.
“I’ll leave it to those three leaders to discuss,” he said. “The commitment that the Israelis made was that they would not extend their sovereignty for a period of time. We are hopeful that the leaders will all be physically together, and will probably have greater clarity and the ability to answer that more clearly.”Asked if he included Saudi Arabia among the countries he expects to normalize ties with Israel, Pompeo said that ultimately the entire world will turn in that direction.“I think the world turns that way. So it is not worth making any prediction. But I think that as time goes on, there is a clarity that this Jewish nation and these nations that are Arab states, will find that acknowledging that Israel does exist and shall exist is something that they will find their way to as well,” he said.Turning to the recent controversy in Israel over reports that the UAE will ask the US to purchase the advanced fifth-generation F-35 after signing the normalization deal with Israel, Pompeo said that America would always remain committed to Israel’s security and to ensure that it retains a qualitative military edge (QME) across the Middle East.
“The US has [remained] – and I am confident always will remain committed to Israel’s security, and the issues of QME remain statutory and are a legal requirement in the US,” he said, adding however that the US has already sold advanced weapon systems to the UAE for more than 20 years “to help keep them safe and secure.”“We have an obligation to try and do our best to make sure they [the UAE] have the weapon systems that they need,” he continued. “They face a real threat just like Israel does from the Islamic Republic of Iran. We have sold them Patriot missiles, and we have sold them other equipment. The fact that they have now recognized Israel gives us another chance to reevaluate and see what’s appropriate [and] how do we do that. We are committed to doing that, and we will.”He said that the administration plans to conduct a review following the deal between Israel and the UAE, and will be looking at all components of the relationship, including intelligence sharing.“There are lots of pieces to this,” he said. “We now will have the opportunity in ways that we couldn’t before, but we are committed to maintaining [Israel’s] security,” he said.One of the main consequences of the Israel-UAE deal, he said, is that new mechanisms have been created that can help deliver on Trump’s vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.“None of it precludes the Palestinians observing that the Israelis are prepared to have this conversation – are prepared to negotiate – and that our vision for peace provides a reasonable basis on which to begin that set of conversations,” he said. “It’s no longer the case that the Palestinians are going to be able to exercise a veto on the rationalization of the relationship and the normalization of the relationship between Israel and other countries.”Asked if he expects the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with Israel, the secretary of state said: “The invitation remains open.”On Tuesday morning, Pompeo will head to Sudan where he will meet with officials from the new government there and try to advance formal relations between Jerusalem and Khartoum. He said that the US was working to move Sudan into the West’s orbit and away from Iran.“Sudan is a good example of where we placed sanctions on them for their activities. We know this is where Osama Bin Laden spent a good deal of time, so we know the history of Sudan,” he said. “We have been working to bring them over to the side that says ‘no, you are better off with a Western face.’”He said he couldn’t predict if and when normalization would happen with Sudan. But he believes, like the rest of the region, that it is only a matter of time.“I see it as inevitable because it is the right thing for these countries,” he said. “I think now there is even more clarity that it is the right thing to do – and the right thing to do for the region – and I am hopeful that in the months ahead, we will see other nations make the same decision.”