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In new book, Pompeo accuses Netanyahu of spreading false rumor for political gain

In preview of a 2024 GOP primary, Pompeo unleashes on Nikki Haley, downplaying her Israel bona fides

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a potential presidential candidate in 2024, writes in a new memoir that the U.S. relationship with Israel is uniquely important, and more critical than its deeply rooted alliance with the United Kingdom. But he also accuses Benjamin Netanyahu of skewing the U.S. administration’s commitment to the security of Israel for political gain and by fomenting anxiety.   

In Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love, set to publish on Tuesday, Pompeo writes that Netanyahu purposely leaked a nonexistent pledge to advance a formal defense treaty between the U.S. and Israel for political reasons. “It was false,” Pompeo writes about the Israeli announcement following a hastily planned 90-minute meeting between the two in Lisbon, Portugal, in December 2019. “But it was a good story for him.” Netanyahu was in the midst of the second of three consecutive and contentious Israeli election campaigns that year and was also lobbying for approval of his plan to annex parts of the West Bank 

The Forward obtained an advance copy of the book. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State in Lisbon, Portugal on Dec. 04, 2019. Photo by Koby Gideon (GPO)

Pompeo served first as CIA director and later as secretary of state for most of the Trump administration. 

During his tenure, he took a leading role in pursuing a more favorable approach toward Israel in the Middle East conflict, chief among them declaring that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank do not violate international law. He was criticized for delivering a partisan political speech at the Republican National Convention in 2020 from Jerusalem. 

The former top U.S. diplomat writes that Netanyahu requested the 2019 meeting because he was “worried” that Jared Kushner, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser who was in the final stages of releasing the administration’s Middle East peace plan, was “too willing to give up on Jerusalem.” Pompeo, along with his senior adviser Brian Hook, were part of the U.S. team working on the plan.

In the book, Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, suggests that “America’s real special relationship may be the one we have with Israel” because its survival “matters for the security and prosperity of every American.”

Pompeo writes that he was inspired by the story of Israel’s founding and “resolved to leave it even stronger than I found it.”

Great Britain is commonly known as America’s closest ally with a shared history and language and strong military and economic ties. According to an Economist/YouGov poll, one-third of Americans, including a plurality of Republicans, share that belief.

Friendly fire 

Pompeo is one of several former Trump officials considering a bid for the presidency in a Republican primary next year. Most of the well-known potential candidates, including the former president himself, who has already launched his campaign, are known as strong and outspoken supporters of Israel, They include former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and John Bolton, former U.S. national security adviser, who has criticized Trump since his departure.

Pompeo accuses Haley of not being a “team player” and being too focused on her political ambitions. Just two years into her term at the U.N., Haley announced her departure to spend time with her family. But according to Pompeo, Haley fooled then-Chief of State John Kelly by entering the Oval Office with Kushner and Ivanka Trump to plot Pence’s removal so that she could become vice president. The Guardian first reported excerpts of this chapter.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference on March 5, 2018. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Haley’s short tenure at the United Nations was a source of pride for the pro-Israel community and Jewish Republicans as she spoke out forcefully in defense of Israel in the hostile international body. She was a star at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conferences and was even considered the first Republican who could win a majority of the Jewish vote. Kushner’s father Charles hosted a fundraiser for Haley last year.

Pompeo downplays Haley’s glamour in the book. “She gave fine remarks about Israel, but didn’t do much else,” he writes, describing the job as “far less important than people think.”

He called her resignation an abandonment of national security interests at a time when it was most needed. “She has described her role as going toe-to-toe with tyrants,” Pompeo writes. “If so, then why would she quit such an important job at such an important time?”

Pompeo also criticizes his former colleagues in the national security team who didn’t share Trump’s foreign policy instincts or refused to accept them. “He just didn’t want to confront Iran anywhere,” Pompeo writes about former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, comparing him to Obama’s Secretary of  State John Kerry, who was a strong supporter of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Haley dismissed the criticism as “lies and gossip to sell a book” in an interview with Fox News on Thursday. “I don’t know why he said it, but that’s exactly why I stayed out of D.C. as much as possible, to get away from the drama,” she said.

Haley teased a formal announcement about a 2024 run in the near future. Pompeo is expected to embark on a national tour to promote his book before making a final decision. He is holding a book-signing event — hosted by the Israel Heritage Foundation — on Tuesday at the Wall Street Grill, a kosher steakhouse in lower Manhattan. Josh Nass, the group’s treasurer, said the $600-per-person ticket will not benefit Pompeo’s campaign.

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