WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may include Jerusalem in his visit to the region this week, amid a sserious military crisis on Israel's northern border, a US official told The Jerusalem Post.
US officials are deeply concerned that a direct conflict between Israel and Iran might escalate into a war, after a drone of Iranian origin entered Israeli airspace over the weekend, prompting an Israeli military response against Iranian assets in Syria and the loss of an Israeli jet in the process.
Given the news, Tillerson has “not ruled out” adding a stop in Israel in order to help diffuse the situation, a State Department official said.
Tillerson is traveling through Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Kuwait over the next five days, where he already planned to focus his discussions on the ongoing crisis in Syria. But spillover from the war there into the Golan Heights will surely change the dynamics of his talks.
Tillerson’s first stop will be in Amman, where he is expected to tout a major new defense memorandum of understanding with Jordan, alongside King Abdullah II.
He will also discuss the status of forces in northern Syria with Turkish leadership; continue discussions with senior Egyptian officials on the Middle East peace process; attend a conference on the reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait City; and make a rare stop in Beirut – the first such visit there by a US secretary of state since 2014.
Briefing reporters late last week on the secretary’s upcoming travel, senior State Department officials downplayed Tillerson’s original decision not to visit Israel this time around.
“I wouldn’t read too much into the fact that there’s no Israel stop,” one senior official said. “These are always very complicated itineraries to pull together.”