Biden en route to Israel for Mideast visit

July 13, 2022 by AAP
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US President Joe Biden is en route to a high-stakes Middle East trip dominated by efforts to persuade Gulf allies to pump more oil and bring Israel and Saudi Arabia closer together.

President Joe Biden boards Air Force One for a trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, July 12, 2022, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Biden will spend two days in Jerusalem for talks with Israeli leaders before meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday in the occupied West Bank.

He will then take a direct flight from Israel to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia – a first for an American president – on Friday for talks with Saudi officials and to attend a summit of Gulf allies.

US officials say the trip – Biden’s first to the Middle East as president – could produce more steps toward normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, historic foes but two of America’s strongest allies in the turbulent region.

“We’re making steps gradually toward that end,” an Israeli official said.

“The fact that President Biden visits Israel, and from here will fly directly to Saudi Arabia, encapsulates a lot of the dynamics that have been evolving over the last months.”

Biden’s trip aims to promote regional stability, deepen Israel’s integration in the region and counter Iranian influence, as well as aggression by Russia and China.

“This trip will reinforce a vital American role in a strategically consequential region,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday.

Biden, under pressure at home to bring down soaring petrol prices that have damaged his standing in public opinion polls, is expected to press Gulf allies to expand oil production and help bring down prices.

A centerpiece of Biden’s visit will be talks in Jeddah with Saudi leaders including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, accused by the US intelligence community of being behind the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The meeting is a reversal of Biden’s previous position of making Saudi Arabia a “pariah” for the Khashoggi death.

How the White House handles the optics of the meeting will be closely watched.

Aides say he will bring up human rights concerns while in Saudi Arabia, but he has nonetheless drawn fire from a wide array of critics.

“Biden needs the Saudis to increase their oil production to help keep global energy prices in check,” wrote Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan in an opinion piece on Tuesday.

“The trip sends the message that the United States is willing to look the other way when its commercial interests are at stake.”

Biden will make brief remarks on Wednesday at an arrival ceremony in Israel and will receive a briefing from Israeli officials on the US-supported Iron Dome defence system and a new laser-enabled system called Iron Beam.

He will also pay his respects at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to Holocaust victims in World War II.

Biden’s talks with Abbas will mark the highest level of face-to-face contact between the United States and the Palestinians since then-president Donald Trump took a tough approach to the Pa lestinians upon taking office in 2017.

Tensions are high between Israel and the Palestinians over the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May.

Her family, having accused the United States of providing immunity for Israel over her killing, has asked to meet Biden during his trip.

The Palestinians, while appreciating the resumption of ties under Biden, want him to make good on pledges to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem.

They also want the United States to remove the Palestine Liberation Organisation from its list of terrorist organisations, preserve the historic status quo in Jerusalem, and curb Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Biden is also likely to face questions from Israel and from Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates about the wisdom of his attempts to revive the Iran nuclear deal.



One Response to “Biden en route to Israel for Mideast visit”
  1. DAVID SINGER says:

    “The fact that President Biden visits Israel, and from here will fly directly to Saudi Arabia, encapsulates a lot of the dynamics that have been evolving over the last months.”

    One of those dynamics must surely involve the Saudi plan to create the Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine by merging Jordan, Gaza and parts of the West Bank into one territorial entity.

    Neither Biden nor Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman have uttered one word of support or opposition to the plan since its release one month ago. Seems as though they are waiting to talk about it when Biden visits the Crown Prince later this week.

    They need to.

    The Saudi plan represents the best effort to end the Arab-Israel conflict since 1967.

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