President Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday to begin a four-day Middle East visit that will focus on slowing Iran’s nuclear program, getting oil to America’s gas pumps and improving relations with Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 50 years after his first trip to Israel as a newly elected senator, Biden made his first return as president and wasted no time in reaffirming his strong support for the Jewish state despite friction over his efforts to negotiate a new nuclear program. agreement with Iran.
“Every opportunity to return to this great country, where the ancient roots of the Jewish people go back to biblical times, is a blessing because the connection between the people of Israel and the people of America is deep,” Biden said after his brief visit. ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport. “Generation after generation, that bond grows stronger.
Biden, who noted as he often does that he has known every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir, whom he met on his first trip in 1973, made his 10th visit to Israel, appeared to dispel the notion that he is any less supportive of the country than his predecessor, President Donald J. Trump, who made his support for Israel a cornerstone of his foreign policy.
“I think our relationship is deeper than it’s ever been,” Biden said.
Congratulating him as he stepped off Air Force One, Israeli leaders echoed that sentiment, stressing that they see Mr. Biden as a friend and little regard for their differences. President Isaac Herzog called him “our brother Joseph” and declared: “You are truly among 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.”
“This is a very personal visit,” Mr. Lapid said, “because your relationship with Israel has always been very personal.” You once defined yourself as a Zionist. You said you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist. And you were right.”
In addition, J. Lapid confirmed that the two leaders will discuss Iran and joint efforts to strengthen the cooperation of the countries of the Middle East. Once isolated in the region, Israel has become increasingly involved in regional diplomacy following landmark diplomatic agreements with three Arab countries in 2020. — and officials hope that further progress will be made during Biden’s visit.
Biden also touched on another area of potential tension, reiterating his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after criticism that his administration has not prioritized the issue.
“We will discuss my continued support, although I know this is not a new term, for the two-state solution, which I believe remains the best way to ensure a future of equal freedom, prosperity and democracy for Israelis and democracy.” Palestinians equally,” Mr. Biden said.
Before his arrival, the Israeli government made some small gestures toward the Palestinians, including some new work permits for Gazans. But while Biden will visit Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and restore ties that were severed under Trump’s presidency, there is little hope that the visit will lead to progress in resolving the dispute.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, refused to be a peripheral figure at the welcome ceremony. He is now the leader of the opposition and will have only a brief meeting with the president on Thursday.
But he and Mr. Biden share a warm but often acrimonious relationship spanning four decades, and the American leader made it a point to seek out Mr. Netanyahu during a group photo with Israeli and US officials. Biden gave Mr. Netanyahu a long warm hug, and both men were happy to see each other.
The president’s trip came at a delicate moment in Israeli politics. The fragile ruling coalition recently collapsed, leaving Mr. Lapid to serve as interim prime minister until November elections, in which Mr. Netanyahu hopes to return.
At the end of the reception, Mr. Lapid joked about his and Biden’s respective trajectories since their previous meeting in Washington.
He told Biden, “I don’t know if you remember, but we met eight years ago in the White House when you were vice president. You said to me, “If only I had hair like yours, I’d be president,” to which I replied, “And if I only had your height, I’d be prime minister.”
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