Biden set for first Israel visit as president in mid-July

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Biden set for first Israel visit as president in mid-July

The US president's Middle East tour next month will also include visits to Palestine and Saudi Arabia

Joe Biden
Joe Biden

Joe Biden will visit Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia next month in a visit that aimed at rebuilding US ties with the Palestinians.

The Biden administration on Tuesday morning posted the dates for his Middle East tour, July 13-16, after weeks of reporting that such a trip would take place this summer.

The visit to Saudi Arabia will include attending a summit of the GCC+3, a body that brings together Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan wutg the Gulf Cooperation Council, a body of Gulf Arab states.

Biden’s office said his visit will “reinforce the United States’ iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity,” and in a phone call with reporters on Monday night, a senior administration official said Biden will discuss joint missile defence efforts with Israeli leaders.

“In Israel, the president will likely visit an area where these defensive systems are utilised, as well as discuss new innovations between our countries that use laser technologies to defeat missiles and other airborne threats,” a statement quoted an unnamed official as saying.

A key agenda item will be re-establishing US relations with the Palestinian Authority, which were all but ruptured during the Trump administration.

The senior administration official cast the initiative as returning the United States to a robust engagement overseas after years of retreat under former President Donald Trump.

“Of course, when we entered office nearly a year and a half ago, ties between the US government and the Palestinians have been nearly severed,” the official said. “We’ve worked to restore those ties. And we now have regular engagements with the Palestinian leadership.”

Biden wants to “rekindle a new political horizon” for the Israelis and the Palestinians, the official said.

Biden has said resuscitating the prospect of a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a foreign policy priority and twice since assuming office has intervened to tamp down outbreaks of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Another agenda item will be repairing ties between the Palestinians and Arab nations that have been made tense by the Abraham Accords, the normalisation agreements between Israel and four Arab countries, and encouraging dialogue between the Palestinians and Israelis.

The visit will be “the start of what we hope will be new and reinvigorated dialogue, both between the United States and the PA but also between the PA and regional capitals, and, most importantly, Israelis,” the official said.

Biden also is pleased that his visit coincided with the July 12-16 Maccabiah Games, the Jewish athletic contest, the official said.

The quadrennial games were delayed a year because of the pandemic.

“He may have an opportunity to meet some of the athletes and we’re pleased that this joyous event, the first since 2017, happens to overlap with the president’s historic visit to Israel,” the official said.

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