Was it worth it? Pompeo dons fashionable flag-themed mask at Israel airport… then takes it off for meetings
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emerged from his plane after touching down for a flying visit to Israel sporting an especially patriotic red, white and blue striped mask – but the novelty didn’t last long.
Pompeo disembarked from his plane at Ben Gurion Airport wearing the colorful face gear, which many news outlets described as a “US flag” mask. Upon closer inspection, however, it appears the face-covering could have been a creative mash-up of the US and Israeli flags, given the addition of blue and white stripes and blue stars.
Glad to be in Israel to coordinate with @IsraeliPM @Netanyahu and @Gantzbe on countering two critical threats: COVID-19 and Iran. Israel and the United States will take on these challenges side-by-side. pic.twitter.com/aSrzD8MhkS
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 13, 2020
The usual handshakes and back-slapping were replaced with socially distanced thumbs-ups as Pompeo greeted Israeli officials on the tarmac, who were also all wearing masks – though none quite as eye-catching as that of the top US diplomat.
The question of whether Pompeo would be masked-up during the trip had been posed by Israeli news outlet Haaretz on Tuesday ahead of the visit, given that top Trump administration officials have downplayed the necessity for face-coverings in recent weeks.
US Vice President Mike Pence was slammed for declining to wear a mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic last month, despite the fact that it was hospital policy. Trump has also been reluctant to don face-coverings during the pandemic.
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Indeed, it appears Pompeo ditched his snazzy mask as soon as he left the airport on Wednesday, which may lead cynical minds to presume the whole thing was a simple PR exercise. Pompeo was photographed maskless only hours later meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The mask suddenly reappeared, however, when Pompeo returned to the airport to board his plane home.
— Noa Landau נעה לנדאו (@noa_landau) May 13, 2020
Pompeo and his team were granted an exemption from Israel’s Covid-19 travel restrictions, which require foreign arrivals to self-quarantine for 14 days. On Twitter, the diplomat said he was there to counter the “critical threats” of Covid-19 and Iran.
Pompeo also met (sans mask) leader of the centrist Blue and White party Benny Gantz, who is set to join Netanyahu in forming a national unity government this week.
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