The danger of Iran’s military actions in the region and Israel’s relationship with its neighbors is on the agenda for US Vice President Joe Biden’s two-day visit to the Jewish state this week.
The vice president recognizes he is visiting the region at a “challenging time,” one senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night.
“In Israel, in particular, he wanted to discuss Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [the Iran deal] implementation and countering Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region,” the official said.
“The vice president also looks forward to discussing Israel’s ongoing efforts to improve relations with its regional neighbors,” he added.
US administration officials say negotiations over the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding under which Israel annually receives defense funding from the US, will not be the primary point of discussion during Biden’s visit.
The official added that “the vice president wanted to engage with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, given the ongoing violence and tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Biden’s trip will include visits to the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinian territories and Jordan, where he will meet with King Abdullah in Amman.
The vice president was to leave the US on Saturday night and arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday evening.
Biden will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the White House said.
A senior White House official told reporters Friday that Biden would not make any major recommendations on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but would focus on increasing cooperation on a number of issues, including the fight against Islamic State and the Syrian conflict.
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington on Friday that the US remained committed to the two-state solution even though talks are at a standstill.
“The United States government remains committed to trying to see a path forward here to getting to get to a two-state solution. Nothing’s changed about that. We still want to see that outcome,” Kirby said.
“This idea that we’ve just thrown up our hands or that we did at some point, and that’s just not the way the Secretary [of State John Kerry] looks at this. This is an issue that has remained important to him and he still believes that it’s worth the effort to continue to have discussions to try to get at that two-state solution,” Kirby said.
Kerry visited Jordan last month, where he met with Abdullah and Abbas. Kirby told reporters he believed Kerry would be making another trip to the region but did not say when.
“We were just out there a week and a half ago to continue to have these kinds of conversations, and you know the secretary better than I do.
I think you can fully expect that we’ll be heading out that way again in the future. There’s no question about that,” Kirby said.
A 2010 visit by Biden to Israel turned sour after the Jerusalem Municipality chose that moment to announce the construction of 1,600 apartments in the Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, over the Green Line.Reuters contributed to this report