On his first trip to the Middle East as US President, Joe Biden pledged Israel the continued support of the United States. Support for Israel’s security is “unwavering,” Biden said shortly after landing at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. “Relationships are deeper and stronger than ever.”
Biden was welcomed by Israeli President Izchak Herzog and the new Prime Minister Jair Lapid at a ceremony on Wednesday afternoon after his arrival. “Today the wind of peace is blowing from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf,” said Herzog in his welcome speech.
During Biden’s visit, however, the threat posed by Iran and its allies to Israel and its neighbors should also be discussed. Biden has been a “true friend and staunch supporter of Israel and the Jewish people throughout his life,” he said.
In Biden’s welcome, Lapid highlighted the “unbreakable bond” between the two countries. He also announced talks on a “new security and economic architecture” in the Middle East.
After his arrival, Biden was shown the “Iron Dome” missile defense system and other air defense systems. In the evening he visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and commemorated the victims of the extermination of the Jews in the Third Reich. The US President also met two Holocaust survivors. At the end of the visit, he signed the memorial’s guest book.
In his speech, the US President emphasized the importance of fighting anti-Semitism. “We continue our never-ending work together to fight the poison of anti-Semitism – no matter where it rears its ugly head.” The lessons of history should never be forgotten. “We keep the promise that the Holocaust must never be repeated.”
The last time a US President was in Israel was Donald Trump in 2017. It is Biden’s first trip to the Middle East since taking office a year and a half ago. Biden called it an honor “to visit the independent Jewish State of Israel.”
In the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Biden again advocated a two-state solution. He knows that this solution is not currently in sight, said Biden. In his opinion, however, it remains the best way to bring prosperity and democracy to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan welcomed recent contacts between the Israeli government and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the flight to Israel. This is “encouraging”. Both sides are asked to build on this. However, Biden will not make any formal proposals for a new peace initiative. Lapid spoke to Abbas on the phone last week. It was the first direct talk between Abbas and an Israeli leader in years.
Biden wants to hold talks with Lapid, Herzog and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem this Thursday. A meeting between Biden and Abbas is scheduled for Friday in the West Bank. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has been idle since 2014. Real progress was also not expected in connection with Biden’s visit.
Biden wants to travel to Saudi Arabia on Friday. In Jeddah he wants to meet with the kingdom’s leadership and attend a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Biden is under enormous pressure in the USA because of the sharp rise in fuel prices – and that almost four months before the important congressional elections. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest oil producers in the world. Biden rejects allegations that with his trip he is now subordinating human rights to the demand for cheaper oil.
The US President, who has been in office since January last year, repeatedly defended himself against criticism of the planned visit to Saudi Arabia before his trip. During the 2019 election campaign, Biden promised to hold the leadership in Riyadh accountable for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was critical of the government. Khashoggi was killed by a hit squad in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in autumn 2018. US secret services blame the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) – the de facto ruler of the kingdom – for the bloody deed.
Accession by the Gulf monarchy to the so-called Abraham Agreements, under which several Arab states have established relations with Israel, is currently considered unlikely. However, there is speculation that the two countries could work together more closely, for example on security issues. (dpa)