President Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday for an inaugural four-day visit to the Middle East that will focus on trying to slow Iran’s nuclear program, getting oil to US gas pumps, and improving relations with Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 50 years after his first visit to Israel as a new senator, Biden is back as president for the first time and has wasted no time in reaffirming his unwavering support for the Jewish state, despite controversies over his efforts to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran. .
“Any opportunity to return to this wonderful land where the ancient Jewish people have their roots in biblical times is a blessing because the relationship between the Israeli people and the American people is so deep,” Biden said during a short interview. Access. . † Ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport. “Generation after generation, this connection is growing.”
Mr. Biden, who, as he often does, has noted he has known every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir, whom he met on his first trip in 1973, made his tenth visit to Israel and seemed to dispel the idea that he was less. supportive of the country from his predecessor, President Donald J. Trump, whose support for Israel was a cornerstone of his foreign policy.
“Our relationship is deeper than ever, in my opinion,” Biden said.
Israeli leaders welcomed him as he left Air Force One, echoing the same sentiments and emphasizing that they consider Biden a friend and pay little attention to their differences. President Isaac Herzog called him “Our Brother Joseph” and said, “You are really part of the family.” The country’s interim prime minister, Yair Lapid, called him “a great Zionist and one of the best friends Israel has ever known.”
“It’s a very personal visit because your relationship with Israel has always been very personal,” said Mr. Lapid. “You once identified yourself as a Zionist. You said you don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist. Turn right.”
Mr. Lapid, without commenting on the matter, confirmed that the two leaders would discuss Iran and their joint efforts to improve cooperation among Middle Eastern countries. Once isolated in the region, Israel is increasingly involved in regional diplomacy with notable diplomatic deals with three Arab countries in 2020, officials hope to make more progress during Biden’s visit.
Likewise, Mr. Biden touched upon another area of potential tension, reiterating his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after criticizing his administration’s failure to prioritize the issue.
“We will discuss my continued support, although in a new era I don’t know, the two-state solution which I believe remains the best way to ensure an equal future of freedom, prosperity and democracy for both Israelis and Palestinians.” Biden said.
Prior to his arrival, the Israeli government had taken several small steps toward the Palestinians, including granting some new work permits to Gaza residents. But while Biden will visit Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem to restore contacts cut during Trump’s presidency, there is little expectation that the visit will make any progress in resolving the conflict.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, made a marginal impression at the welcoming ceremony. He is now out of office and is the leader of the opposition and has a short meeting with the president on Thursday.
But Biden’s warm, if often fraught, relationship goes back four decades, and the US leader has been eager to find Mr Netanyahu during a group photo of Israeli and US officials. Mr. Biden gave Mr. Netanyahu long, warm clips, and the two men gave the impression that they were happy to see each other.
The president’s trip comes at a sensitive time in Israeli politics. The recently collapsed fragile government coalition left Lapid as interim prime minister until the November elections, which Netanyahu hopes to return to.
At the end of the reception, Mr. Lapid joked about his course with Biden since a previous meeting between the two in Washington.
He told Mr. Biden, “I don’t know if you remember, but eight years ago we met in the White House when I was Vice President. You said to me, ‘If my hair were like yours, I would be president.'” And I replied, ‘If I were only your height, I would be Prime Minister.’ .