Maskless Talks, Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, Tests Covid Positive
Israeli Prime Minister Tests Covid Positive Following "Maskless" Talks With US Secretary Of State

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, according to his office, after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Mr. Bennett, who met Mr. Blinken on the sidelines of a “historic summit” of Israeli and Arab diplomats in Jerusalem on Sunday, “is feeling well and will continue his schedule as planned from his home,” according to a statement from his office. Also on Sunday, Mr. Bennett traveled to Hadera in northern Israel, where gunmen killed two police officers in an attack claimed by the jihadist Islamic State group. The two gunmen – Israeli Arabs identified by Israeli intelligence as local IS operatives – were killed by counterterrorism officers who happened to be nearby, according to police.

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According to Mr. Bennett’s office, the prime minister “will hold a situation assessment following the attack that occurred last night with” the ministers of defense, public security, the army’s chief of staff, and other officials on Monday.
Images circulating in Israeli media following his visit to Hadera, during which he was also briefed by police on the attack, showed him wearing a face mask.

During a joint news conference with Mr. Blinken on Sunday, however, the prime minister did not wear a face mask.

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The US’s top diplomat is in Israel for historic talks with officials from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco – countries that will normalize relations with Israel in 2020.

His Egyptian counterpart will also attend the group’s meeting in the Negev desert later Monday.

The talks come as regional concerns grow about a deal Washington may soon reach with Iran to re-establish the 2015 nuclear deal.

Most Gulf Arab countries, including Israel, are skeptical of a resurrected deal with Tehran, which the Jewish state regards as a threat to its very existence.

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The Negev meeting is also taking place as the US and European allies express quiet frustration that Middle Eastern countries have not shown strong support for efforts to support Ukraine going to follow Russia’s invasion or distanced themselves from Moscow.

Following his meeting with Bennett on Sunday evening, Blinken traveled to the Israeli-occupied West Bank for talks with Palestinian ruler Mahmud Abbas.