US President Joe Biden will have the opportunity during his trip to Israel “to lay out in his own voice his vision for the US-Israel relationship and his strong and ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Wednesday.
“The president is very much looking forward to his first trip to Israel as president,” he told a press gaggle on Air Force One, some two hours before it landed. “Obviously, this is not his first trip to Israel as Joe Biden. It will, in fact, be the 10th time he has come, and his strong support and commitment to the State of Israel and to the US-Israel relationship is widely known both in Israel and in the United States.”
“His trip will be an opportunity for him to reaffirm and reinforce that as president of the United States he believes that what is important at this critical moment in the world... is that we deepen and intensify our engagement and relationship with our closest allies and partners in the world,” Sullivan said.
One of the main events during Biden’s visit will be a virtual summit with the leaders of Israel, India and the UAE, dubbed the “I2U2,” he said, adding that during the summit, “there will be a significant announcement around food security and agricultural technology, which is an area where all four countries can come together to help deal with an immediate crisis facing the entire world.”
Biden on the Palestinians
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “the president will make clear his long-standing commitment and his administration’s commitment to a two-state solution, which he believes is the best path to ensure a viable democratic Jewish State of Israel and a Palestinian state where Palestinians can live in freedom and dignity,” Sullivan said.
“He was heartened by the recent steps, including the phone call between Prime Minister [Yair] Lapid and [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas,” he said. “There has not been contact between an Israeli prime minister and the president of the Palestinian Authority in several years before that call. That’s a positive step.”
Defense Minister Gantz recently met Abbas, Sullivan said.
“These are steps [Biden would] like to encourage both sides to build on, but he won’t be making formal proposals for the launch of some new peace initiative,” he said. “What he will do is try to encourage both sides to find a pathway where step-by-step, they move closer towards a vision that works for both Israelis and for Palestinians and for the region as a whole.”
Asked whether the administration plans to reopen the US Consulate in east Jerusalem, Sullivan said its position was that it would like to. “Obviously, that requires engagement with the Israeli government. It requires engagement with the Palestinian leadership as well, and we will continue that engagement on this trip.”
In response to a question about a possible meeting with the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, he said: “Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken spoke with Shireen’s family a short while ago. He has invited the family to the United States to be able to sit down and engage with them directly. The administration, at the president’s direction, has been very much engaged in helping to try to determine what exactly happened around the tragic circumstances of her death.”
Another stop in this trip is a summit with the Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia.
“The president is going to give a broad, strong vision statement and strategy for the Biden administration’s approach to the Middle East at a consequential moment,” Sullivan said. “He will talk about security, he’ll talk about economics, he’ll talk about America’s historic role in the region and his commitment to maintain strong American leadership in the Middle East going forward on a basis that is appropriate for 2022, rather than 2002, and he will also talk about human rights.”
The Iran deal
Asked about the administration’s position on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, Sullivan said: “There is a deal on the table.”
“It involves a mutual compliance for compliance return to the JCPOA,” he said. “The president believes Iran should take it. At the same time, we are not holding back in terms of enforcing the sanctions. We have done two rounds of designations over the course of the last few weeks to crack down on smuggling and to increase the economic pressure on Iran.”
“So the president’s policy has been clear and straightforward, and that’s how he’s going to lay it out for countries in the region, some of whom have different perspectives, obviously, including Israel,” Sullivan said. “And he will make the case that from the view of the United States and the Biden administration, diplomacy is the best way to reach what is a shared goal of ensuring that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon.”