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Pompeo forges ties with Ashkenazi as Israeli government diversifies

The US administration knows that the new government in Israel means that the days of working only with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are over.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Israeli Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz in Jerusalem May 13, 2020. Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via REUTERS - RC2ONG9Y03BM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived to Israel on May 13 for an eight-hour visit marking the end of an era in Israeli-US relations. “No more one-man show; that’s an old story,” a high-level Blue and White member told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “Pompeo understands that now he has to deal with a different system altogether. Until now, the Americans were used to closing everything with [Israel’s ambassador to the United States] Ron Dermer, who served as [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s right-hand man in Washington. But now, surprise surprise, the party’s over. From now on, Israel is governed by a two-headed regime.”

This new situation was evident in the fact that Pompeo chose to meet with future Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi even before the latter was sworn in, while he did not meet with outgoing Foreign Minister Israel Katz at all. With Netanyahu, an old friend of Pompeo's, the Americans didn’t need to work with Israel’s foreign minister, but they certainly will now. “The Americans have the entire world on their head; they are not up on all the details [regarding Israel],” remarked a senior Israeli official who participated in the Pompeo meetings. The official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “They have internalized the new situation and understand that from now on, the game will have totally different rules. It will be hard for them to get used to the change.”

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