White House formally announces Biden Israel, Saudi Arabia trip on July 13-16

The visit will also focus on Israel's integration into the region through the Abraham Accords through deepening ties between Israel and Jordan and Egypt.

 US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on administration plans to fight inflation and lower costs during a speech in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building's South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on administration plans to fight inflation and lower costs during a speech in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building's South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)

US President Joe Biden will unveil plans to bolster Israel’s relations with Arab states during his July 13-14 visit to Jerusalem next month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said Tuesday.

The statement was likely referring to an agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia about security arrangements in the Straits of Tiran.

“The president’s visit will... reveal the steps that are being taken by the US to integrate Israel into the Middle East and increase the prosperity of the entire region,” said the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The statement also specified that Israel welcomes Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia during the same trip to the region.

The announcement came as Jerusalem and Riyadh, with Washington’s mediation, reached new security arrangements, allowing Egypt to transfer control of two islands in the Straits of Tiran to Saudi Arabia.

There is currently a multinational force on the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, under the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Saudi Arabia does not want the force to remain once it controls the islands, as Egypt promised it would. Under a soon-to-be-announced deal, Israel will agree to have multinational forces stationed on what will remain Egyptian soil, several kilometers away.

In return, Saudi Arabia will allow Israeli airlines to fly over its airspace. Currently, only Israeli flights to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain can fly over Saudi Arabia, as well as Air India flights to and from Israel.

In the White House’s formal announcement on Tuesday that Biden will visit the Middle East from July 13-16, it said the trip will include a visit to Israel and the West Bank, followed by a direct flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

According to a senior administration official, Biden will participate in a summit of the GCC+3 in Jeddah, which would include the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar, plus Iraq, Jordan and Egypt.

“The president will begin his travel in Israel, where he will meet with Israeli leaders to discuss Israel’s security, prosperity, and its increasing integration into the greater region,” the White House said in a statement. “The president will also visit the West Bank to consult with the Palestinian Authority, and to reiterate his strong support for a two-state solution, with equal measures of security, freedom, and opportunity for the Palestinian people.”

The President will begin his travel in Israel, where he will meet with Israeli leaders to discuss Israel’s security, prosperity, and its increasing integration into the greater region.”

The White House

Biden worked with Congress to secure $1 billion to replenish the Iron Dome missile-defense system after the Gaza war last year, said a senior US administration official, adding that while in Israel, Biden “will likely visit an area where these defensive systems are utilized, as well as discuss new innovations between our countries that use laser technologies to defeat missiles and other airborne threats.”

The visit will also focus on “Israel’s increasing integration into the region through the Abraham Accords with UAE, Morocco and Bahrain, through deepening ties between Israel and Jordan and Egypt, and also entirely new agreement groupings of partners including Israel, India, UAE and the United States, what we call I2U2,” the official said. “We consider these initiatives central to our strategy of empowering partners and encouraging them to work more closely together, which will lead to a more stable region and also to Israel’s security prosperity over the longer term.”

Biden will hold a virtual summit with the I2U2 heads of state for a discussion about the food security crisis and other areas of cooperation across hemispheres, where the US and Israel serve as important innovation hubs, the official said.

 US President Joe Biden attends the Quad leaders’ summit, in Tokyo, Japan, May 24, 2022. (credit: YUICHI YAMAZAKI/POOL VIA REUTERS) US President Joe Biden attends the Quad leaders’ summit, in Tokyo, Japan, May 24, 2022. (credit: YUICHI YAMAZAKI/POOL VIA REUTERS)

“The president looks forward to this unique engagement with Prime Minister Bennett of Israel, with Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi of India, and President Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE,” the official said.

The Prime Minister’s Office statement said: “The US and Israel will be forging agreements set to strengthen the civilian and security cooperation between the two countries and take the US-Israel alliance to new heights.”

Biden’s visit will also coincide with the Maccabiah Games, which bring Jewish athletes from around the world to Israel for an Olympics-like competition. Biden “may have an opportunity to meet some of the athletes,” the official said.

Other visits in the Middle East

Biden is also expected to meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders.

“The president, of course, has known Abbas for decades, and he looks forward to reaffirming his lifelong commitment to a two-state solution,” the official said.

Biden looks forward “to outlining an affirmative agenda for America’s engagement in this vital region, making clear that the United States is fully committed to supporting the territorial defense of our partners against threats from Iran or elsewhere, and doing so in newly integrated and innovative ways,” the official said. “The president will discuss some pretty innovative initiatives we have ongoing in CENTCOM, in the Red Sea and some unique naval task forces, which we’ll discuss on the security side, but also the economic integration.”

According to the official, “we can expect the president to see the crown prince. 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.”