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US defense secretary to visit Israel as part of Mideast trip.

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U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is scheduled to visit the Middle East this week, his first regional tour since taking office, the Pentagon said Saturday. Mattis is set to visit Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Djibouti between April 18 and April 23.The Defense Department said the purpose of the trip was to “reaffirm key U.S. military alliances”, and “discuss cooperative effort to counter destabilizing activities and defeat extremist terrorist organizations”. Mattis will arrive in Israel on Thursday. But we have two meetings one with with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. Lieberman and Mattis met in Washington on March 7, where both underscored the close defense ties between the U.S. and Israel.Mattis’ visit to Israel will take place against the backdrop of efforts by Washington and Jerusalem to reignite the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Mattis has said in the past that he believes the Judea and Samaria settlement enterprise was “obstructing the possibility of a two-state outcome” between Israelis and Palestinians.

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