Biden in Israel for his first Middle East tour

Biden in Israel for his first Middle East tour


US President Joe Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday for his first Middle East tour, a balancing act between the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tensions with Iran and negotiations with Saudi oil power. 

Air Force One landed in the middle of the afternoon on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, where Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid were waiting for Mr. Biden.

< p>Shortly after his arrival, the Israeli army will give him a demonstration of its technologies, including an anti-drone laser, a way of rallying Washington to its diplomatic offensive against its number one enemy: Iran.

< p>“Discussions (with Mr. Biden) will focus first and foremost on Iran,” said Mr. Lapid, interim prime minister until the November 1 snap election, said this week.

Joe Biden , a veteran of the American political scene, had first visited Israel in 1973, when this country was, under the leadership of Golda Meir, an ally of the Shah's Iran.

Today, Israel is trying to prevent Western powers, including the United States, from reviving a 2015 international pact framing Iran's nuclear program, which Donald Trump scuttled in 2018.

With a possible lifting of US sanctions against Iran, the Jewish state fears that an agreement will inflate the aid provided by Tehran to allies like Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas, Israel's pet peeves.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has hit back saying that Biden's tour “will not bring security” to Israel.

16,000 police < /p>

Police will deploy some 16,000 troops during Mr. Biden's visit and many roads will be closed in Israel and Jerusalem where police crisscross the city center.

On King David Street in Jerusalem, where Joe Biden will be staying, the poles have been capped with American flags to mark this first visit by a US head of state since Republican Donald Trump in 2017.

To the chagrin of Palestinians, the administration Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the US embassy there, a move Democrat Joe Biden did not reverse.

The question of Jerusalem is one of the main stumbling blocks in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been suspended since 2014. The Palestinians aim to make East Jerusalem, the eastern part occupied by Israel since 1967, the capital of a future State.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan assured Monday that Washington had re-established “almost severed diplomatic ties” with the Palestinians.

Despite a request, no meeting is scheduled with the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, the American-Palestinian journalist shot dead in May on the sidelines of an Israeli operation in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

The UN and various journalistic investigations maintain that the shooting came from an Israeli soldier, a scenario deemed “likely” by the United States, which however dismissed the hypothesis of a deliberate shooting which upset the family Abu Akleh.

In the absence of a meeting with Mr. Biden in Jerusalem, the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken invited the Abu Akleh family to the United States for a meeting with him.

Unpublished flight < /strong>

In addition to Israeli leaders, Mr. Biden is due to meet opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday.

On Friday, he will meet in Bethlehem in the West Bank with the president Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas.

If he claims to take the opposite view of Donald Trump, Mr. Biden has not reopened the American consulate in East Jerusalem, any more than he has really sought to relaunch the peace process.

“Until now, we only hear empty words,” said Jibril Rajoub, a Palestinian official, to AFP.

Another crucial subject: the perspective, still very hypothetical , of a normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel that has established ties with several Arab countries in recent years.

Joe Biden will draw a symbolic link between the two countries by making an unprecedented direct flight from Tel Aviv to Jeddah on Friday.

“The fact that Biden is flying directly to Arabia sums up the dynamics of the past few months (. ..) We hope and act in such a way that this is the first steps, the beginning, of a process of normalization,” an Israeli official said Tuesday.

The Biden administration would also like to get the Saudi kingdom, the world's largest exporter of crude oil, to open the floodgates to calm the surge in oil prices.

In the campaign, Joe Biden wanted to reduce the kingdom to the rank of ” pariah” after the 2018 assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Elected, he declassified a report concluding that the crown prince and strongman of the kingdom Mohammed bin Salman, known as “MBS”, had “validated” this murder.

Saturday in Jeddah, it is expected that he meets “MBS”. Invoking the Covid-19, Joe Biden will “minimize contacts” during his trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, the White House warned on Wednesday.