QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Secretary of State. Thank you for giving us this interview. This is Gili Cohen from Kan News.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Very nice to speak with you. I hope you’re doing well today.
QUESTION: You too. You are visiting Israel in unusual circumstances, in a time of global crisis. May I ask you directly, sir: What was so urgent that led you to a face-to-face meeting today with Prime Minister Netanyahu?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, these are difficult times all across the globe. But this is an incredibly important relationship at an incredibly important time. There’s a new government scheduled to be formed, and I wanted to get out here and meet with not only Prime Minister Netanyahu, but with Speaker Gantz, and talk to them about a range of important issues, not only issues that relate to the U.S.-Israel relationship, but issues that we work on together: countering the Islamic Republic of Iran, including our work to extend the arms embargo. So we had a handful of very important issues that we’re in important timing to discuss, and I wanted to be here, too, at the front end of the new government’s formation to express the importance that the United States places on our continued relationship with Israel.
QUESTION: And this is your first time – your first trip abroad during the coronavirus pandemic. How do Israel and the United States collaborate in this unique situation?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve worked on a number of fronts together. We’ve always had a deep, important security relationship. But in the time of this pandemic crisis, we have our commercial businesses working together. We’ve worked to assist each other as we needed equipment, things to protect our own people. So we’ve worked to make sure that any nation that had excess would provide it to the other. And then we’ve also found great ways for our technology and pharmaceutical and medical companies, our best scientists all across our countries, both in the government and in the private sector, to begin work together to try and be part of the coalition all across the world that will ultimately deliver either therapeutics or a vaccine so that we can take down the continued risk from this pandemic.
QUESTION: So if there will be a breakthrough in finding a vaccine, will Israel be ahead in line to get it? And would you expect it also vice versa?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I hope whoever gets it first, whatever nation it is – whether it’s us, or the Israelis, or a group of us, or someplace else, I hope that we will all collectively find a way to produce this at high volume to get it all across the world and make sure that every citizen that needs access to a vaccine can get it as quickly as possible. We’ll figure out the model for distribution when the time comes, but the United States is already doing the work needed to prepare manufacturing capacity so that that manufacturing capacity is online and ready to go when that vaccine arrives, wherever the – in whatever country ultimately solves the riddle.
QUESTION: Clearly. For now, a different subject: There were reports that the U.S. has great concerns with Chinese investment here in Israel. Did you demand Israel to cease partnership with Chinese firms?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sorry, could you ask the question again? You’re breaking up just a little bit.
QUESTION: Sorry. I mentioned that there were reports that the U.S. has great concerns with Chinese investment here in Israel. And I’m asking, though, wanted to know if you are demanding Israel to cease partnership with the Chinese firms.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we do have concerns about Chinese investments all across the world. We’re not concerned when they show up to operate as a normal commercial entity, but when they arrive in a way that has a political dimension to it, when it is a state-owned enterprise, or it is an entity that has a nefarious mission, we want to make sure that our friendly partners all around the world understand that risk.
And so I spoke with the prime minister about these issues. I spoke with Speaker Gantz, too. Look, we want the Chinese people —
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the answer?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We want the Chinese people to be successful. We do not want the Chinese Communist Party to have access to Israeli infrastructure, Israeli communication systems, all of the things that put Israeli citizens at risk and in turn put the capacity for America to work alongside Israel on important projects at risk as well. We think these risks are very real, and we shared with them information about that so that they could make good decisions for themselves.
QUESTION: Do you believe in – are you satisfied with the answer that you received today from Netanyahu and Gantz regarding this issue?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, yes. Look, it’s always a continuing conversation with issues like this. But yes, I think they understand it too. I think, frankly, the whole world has observed what’s happened here with the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. I think the whole world has seen that and seen how the Chinese Communist Party deceived the world and didn’t share the information in a timely fashion, and we know that things could have been different had they chosen to do that. And you can see what an authoritarian regime, what kind of outcomes you get from authoritarian regimes, and it just means the democracies of the world – places like Israel and the United States – have an obligation to continue to work together closely.
QUESTION: Let’s talk a bit about President Trump, if you can. I will ask that just directly: Would the administration support an Israeli annexation of territories in the West Bank even if other parts of the plan are not implemented?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we laid out a Vision for Peace now several months back. Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and now Speaker Gantz accepted that plan and agreed to negotiate with the Palestinians on that basis. They continue to believe that that vision is thoughtful and pragmatic and a basis on which we can move forward. The Israeli Government will make decisions about annexation, whether to do it and how to do it, and the timing of that annexation. I hope that the Palestinians, that the Palestinian leadership will come to understand, too, that that vision for peace is best for their people, for the Palestinian people as well. We want a brighter future for both Israelis and Palestinians, and we hope that the Palestinians will sign up to negotiate with a vision for peace as the basis of those negotiations.
QUESTION: On those – on the same matter, hundreds of generals in the IDF raised – deep concerned that the annexation plan will harm the peace agreement with Jordan, and even risks for its very existence. Are you sharing the same concerns as well?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, goodness, it doesn’t surprise me that there are lots of different viewpoints in Israel on annexation and how to proceed on that, the fact that —
QUESTION: That’s for sure.
SECRETARY POMPEO: The fact that a group of generals had a particular view on how it might move forward doesn’t surprise me. Much like America, it’s a great thing about democracies, lots of voices get a chance to be heard. Israel’s just gone through a handful of elections, and they’ve now chosen this unity government, and that unity government, I am confident, will make good decisions about how to move forward with respect to annexation, and more broadly, how to move forward to try and get to a place where we can ultimately resolve this long challenge between Israel and the Palestinian people. We think that our vision, the vision that President Trump laid out, is a good basis for that. The Israelis have now agreed to that. I hope the Palestinians will before too long as well.
QUESTION: Another main issue on the agenda of your visit is Iran. Top Israeli security officials believe that Iran is being pushed out of Syria thanks to Israeli efforts. Does the U.S. share the same view as well?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Both Israel and the United States have made clear to the Iranian regime that they need to get out of Syria. We’ve made that clear to the Assad regime as well. The Iranian people too know that the resources, the money being squandered, the loss of life that’s taking place – Iranian life – that’s taking place inside of Syria is not a good use of funds, especially at a time when Iran’s economy is suffering from low oil prices and the coronavirus.
And so the work that the Americans have done, the work that we’ve done with our program, our maximum pressure campaign, we think has been effective at denying the Iranian regime the resources to inflict terror across the world. And we hope – we hope the Iranian regime will make the wise decision to move out of Syria, to cease their terror campaign there that’s caused six million people to leave, tens of thousands of lives lost. We hope the Iranian regime will make a different choice and that they’ll depart Syria, and the sooner, the better.
QUESTION: You’ve mentioned now COVID-19, that has hit hard Iran. Is this an opportunity for regime change there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The United States policy is aimed at getting good outcomes for the Iranian people. They’ll choose their leaders; they have chosen their leaders. We hope now that they’ll make a choice of leadership that changes the fundamental behavior of the Iranian regime. Look, this is a nation that is the most anti-Semitic nation in the world. They have threatened to take Israel off the map. They also are the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. We are confident that that is not what the Iranian people want. We hope that regime will change its behavior in a way that’s consistent with what the demands of the Iranian people have consistently been.
QUESTION: Last question, sir: Israel will – finally sworn in new government tomorrow. From your perspective, how it will work with two head of states, a prime minister and an alternate prime minister?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, goodness. We’ll do it the way we always do. The relationship is between the United States and Israel. We’ll work with the duly elected Israeli leadership. And I am very confident that the unity government that, with any luck at all, will be formed in the next handful of hours, will deliver good things for the Israeli people and good things for the relationship between our two countries as well.
Thank you very much. Thank you very much for your time today. I’m sorry I’ve got to run off now.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, for your time, and have a safe journey home.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, ma’am. You have a good day.
QUESTION: Thank you.