Biden leaves for Israel, beginning first Middle East trip as president

JERUSALEM – President Joe Biden will arrive in Israel on Wednesday for his first visit travel to the middle east as president is looking to show support for that nation amid low hopes that his visit will lead to any fundamental change rising tension between Israel and the Palestinians.

While most presidents have focused their visits to Israel to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is no indication from Biden administration officials other than to reaffirm Biden’s support for the two-state solution. Have a plan to do something.

Instead, much of the emphasis before the visit has been focused on improving relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as part of Biden’s broader efforts to stabilize the region and counter Iran’s growing nuclear threat. Is. After two days in Israel and a trip to the West Bank, Biden plans travel to saudi arabiaWhile administration officials have indicated that there may be some initial steps toward publicly normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“This may be the first presidential visit to Israel in history where the president doesn’t really have a policy agenda, and certainly not a real take on the Israel-Palestinian conflict on the peace process,” said Michael Koplo, Chief Policy Officer at the Israel Policy Forum, a non-profit group that advocates for a two-state solution. “While the President’s visit here is always exciting, I’m not sure there’s going to be a huge amount in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian issues that we haven’t seen before.”

Foreign policy analysts have said one issue likely to be discussed is allowing direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia for Israeli Muslims to perform the Hajj, as well as other Israeli flights into the country. Removal of air restrictions.

“Any kind of normalization will be a long process, but looking for progress and momentum in that direction is certainly something we are focusing on,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Biden’s Journey is a Major. comes a few weeks after turmoil in the Israeli government that ousted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and launched another Israeli election in November, the fifth in less than four years. Instead of meeting with Bennett, with whom administration officials have been working closely for the past year, Biden will sit with caretaker Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Uncertainty about who will lead Israel in November has added to the difficulties Biden faces in trying to advance any peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, said Dan Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration. , who is now a companion. in the Atlantic Council.

“There is no government in Israel that is prepared to take any significant political or diplomatic steps on the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” Shapiro said. “And the Palestinian leadership is still somewhat in a state of disarray as people jockey for an expected transition at some point.”

While the Middle East has largely left China and Russia behind on Biden’s foreign policy agenda, a visit to Israel under his presidency at this point sends a signal to that nation and its supporters that this is a priority and criticism A point is avoided. Made up of President Barack Obama who waited until the start of his second term to visit Israel.

“I think it was a high priority for President Biden to visit Israel in the early days of his presidency. He has given Israel central support for his foreign policy position and political identity throughout his career,” Shapiro said. Said. “He definitely wanted to find a way to display that warmth and not raise any questions about it.”

Sullivan said Biden also plans to meet with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as it is customary for visiting presidents to meet with the head of Israel’s opposition party, Sullivan said. . Biden and Netanyahu, who were close aides of former President Donald Trump and are fighting to regain their old jobs in the upcoming elections, have a complicated history dating back decades to Biden’s days as a senator.

Along with meetings with Israeli leaders, Biden will receive a briefing on Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and a new laser-enabled system called Iron Beam, and plans to visit Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem. He will also hold a virtual summit with leaders of Israel, the United Arab Emirates and India focused on the food shortages as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Concrete developments are less expected from Biden’s visit to the West Bank on Friday for a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian leader is pushing the Biden administration to reopen the US consulate in East Jerusalem and for Biden to more vocally oppose Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as well as to address the wider issue of the Palestinian desire for an independent state. are. East Jerusalem.

Who will also die of lethargy on Biden’s visit with officials in Israel and the West Bank? Palestinian-American journalist Shirin Abu Akleho, for which human rights and journalist advocacy groups have prompted them to hold Israel accountable. The State Department said the US concluded earlier this month that Abu Akleh was likely killed by gunfire from Israeli military bases, but US investigators said they could not reach a definitive conclusion about the origin of the bullet. could be reached, the State Department said.

Investigations by the United Nations and independent Western media organizations found his death was caused by Israeli fire.

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