THE WEEK AHEAD: President Biden travels to Israel and the Middle East to meet with key regional leaders, as the hajj gets underway in Mecca
Here are the stories we are watching...
U.S. President Joe Biden visits Israel, West Bank and Saudi Arabia
Progress in Israel-Lebanon maritime border dispute
Israel allows Gazans to visit Jerusalem for Eid al-Adha
Key cross-examination in Netanyahu’s trial
PRESIDENT BIDEN VISITS THE MIDDLE EAST
U.S. President Joe Biden will land in Israel on Wednesday, July 13 and be welcomed by the country’s new and interim prime minister, Yair Lapid. Biden will spend two days in the holy land, in which he is also set to meet with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who is aiming to regain the premiership in the upcoming elections in November. The U.S. administration wants to avoid the perception of meddling in Israel’s election, but according to the State Department protocol, there is precedent for presidents to meet both the prime minister and opposition leader during a campaign.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog will award Biden the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor in a festive ceremony in recognition of his friendship with the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
Biden will also meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and travel to Saudi Arabia, where he is expected to attend a Gulf summit and ask the alliance to boost oil production. Biden will make a historic flight, traveling directly from Tel Aviv to Riyadh. Former U.S. President Donald Trump also made history by flying directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv.
All eyes will be on Biden’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In recent weeks, administration officials hinted that the president's visit could bring new developments in the relationship between Israel and the Saudi Kingdom.
ISRAEL-LEBANON MARITIME BORDER DISPUTE
U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein will travel to Israel next week to discuss a dispute over the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon. Hochstein will meet with Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, according to a local report. A senior Israeli official told Kan News that there is high expectation for significant progress between the two countries, after Lebanese authorities offered a compromise.
Lebanon, which accused Israel of infiltrating contested waters, said it is willing drop its partial claim to the offshore Israeli gas field in exchange for full control over a second gas field. Hezbollah has been trying to take advantage of the conflict and recently launched drones towards the Israeli gas field.
EID AL-ADHA CELEBRATIONS
Muslims are celebrating Eid al-Adha this week, one of Islam's significant holidays. The “Feast of Sacrifice” this year is July 9 and 13 during the time of hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The holiday centers around Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Accordingly, Muslims mark the tradition by symbolically sacrificing a lamb, goat or cow and sharing the meat equally among family, friends and the poor.
For the first time since 2017, Israel has allowed 400 Palestinians from Gaza – in addition to others from the West Bank – to visit Jerusalem for the holiday. Hundreds of more Gazans will be permitted to visit first-degree relatives in the West Bank and Israel.
The cross-examination of a key witness in Netanyahu’s trial begins next week. So far, the testimony by Hadas Klein – an assistant to billionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer – detailed demands for luxury goods made by the former Israeli premier and his wife, Sara. Netanyahu is accused of providing financial or personal favors in exchange for gifts, such as champagne and jewelry. The defense plans to try to undermine Klein’s testimony in the highly anticipated cross-examination stage.
The trial has been going on for many months, with media outlets leaning to each political side, while highlighting their own takeaways from courtroom discussions. The trial is likely to draw even more attention as the election shifts into high gear.
This week we are also keeping an eye on these developing stories:
... Who will win Israel’s next elections? Joel Rosenberg delivers his prediction.
... What will be the fate of thousands of Russian Jews who wish to immigrate to Israel?
... Will Israel succeed in joining the desired U.S. Visa Waiver Program?
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.