The White House announced Tuesday that President Biden will embark on a Middle East trip in July that will see him visit Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia.
The trip, scheduled for July 13-16, will include meetings with a number of world leaders for discussions on a host of issues including security, energy, climate issues, human rights and the growing threat of Iran.
“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will visit the Middle East region from July 13-16 to reinforce the United States’ iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity and attend a Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan (known as the GCC+3),” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “He will also meet with counterparts from across the region, to advance U.S. security, economic, and diplomatic interests.”
A senior administration official said that the first stop will be Israel, where Biden is planning to visit an area that utilizes defense systems like the Iron Dome, which intercepts rockets fired from Palestinian territories. The official noted that the Biden administration is working with Congress to provide $1 billion for the Iron Dome.
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One point of discussion in Israel will be the Jewish state’s integration into the region that has included the landmark Abraham Accords with Bahrain, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates. Improved relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have included the opening of Saudi airspace in 2021, which makes it possible for flights from Israel to land in the Arab country, including Biden’s when he travels directly from Israel to the Saudi city of Jeddah during this trip.
The senior administration official said Biden will also be meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders in the West Bank, and he will reiterate the American commitment to a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
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When in Saudi Arabia, the official said, Biden will attend a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, where leaders from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt will be present.
Biden is also expected to meet with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. While Biden has been critical of Saudi Arabia due to human rights concerns, and even vowed to make the country a global “pariah” when he was campaigning in 2019, the senior administration official noted the strategic importance of maintaining ties with them.
“While we recalibrate relations, we’re not seeking to rupture relations because Saudi Arabia has been a strategic partner of the United States for eight decades, and we share a host of interests with Saudi Arabia, from containing Iran to counterterrorism to helping protect its territory, where, importantly, 70,000 Americans live and work,” the official said. “And I just think that’s an important fact. I mean, Saudi Arabia has faced hundreds of missiles and UAVs over the last 18 months, many of them targeting areas where Americans live and work. And so we have been engaged very deeply and very constructively with the Saudis to help defeat those threats. And that’s something, obviously, that is going to continue.”