Preparations ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel are underway in the region. The president is expected to arrive in late June at the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. It will be Biden’s first trip to the Jewish state and the Middle East since he took office.
Biden's trip will include a stop in the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Biden is also set to deliver a speech in front of a live Israeli audience, as well as pay a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the Western Wall, according to Israeli media reports.
An advance team from the Biden administration arrived in Israel earlier this week to prepare the groundwork for the official visit. Axios reports that Israeli and American officials are currently discussing the option to add a “regional element” to the president’s tour to the Middle East, such as a summit between Biden, Bennett and several other leaders from the region.
The idea was floated during a meeting between Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata and his U.S. counterpart Jake Sullivan last month, according to the report.
The proposed regional forum is in its early stages of conception, and is meant to build on momentum of the Negev Summit that took place in southern Israel at the end of March. Hosted by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the summit brought together U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt. It was seen as an attempt by Israel and its Abraham Accords partners to demonstrate a united front against Iran at the height of nuclear negotiations in Vienna.
By convening multiple leaders together, Biden could strengthen his commitment to Middle Eastern allies at a time when the U.S. is seen as disengaging from the region. The White House has also been recently been making diplomatic overtures to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations, in order to amend ties and better address the global oil crisis. It is unclear whether the president will add an additional stop to Saudi Arabia during his trip.
The president’s visit is expected to be relatively short, according to Axios. Biden will only spend 24-36 hours on the ground and hold a series of meetings with Israeli officials in Jerusalem and Palestinian officials in Bethlehem.
Over the course of the past four months, the White House has raised several proposals to host a meeting between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials. The administration’s idea was to focus the discussions on strengthening security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the support of Jordan, Egypt and the United States. Axios reported that Jerusalem did not reject the offer outright, but rather presented certain reservations.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.