US President Joe Biden’s flight from Israel to Saudi Arabia would be a small symbol of “budding relations and steps toward normalization” between Israel and the Arab world, Biden said in an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Saturday.
In the article in which Biden explained to the American public why he was going to visit Saudi Arabia next week, Biden said he will be the first president to fly from Israel to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.
“I know that there are many who disagree with my decision to travel to Saudi Arabia,” wrote Biden. “My views on human rights are clear and long-standing, and fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when I travel abroad, as they will be during this trip, just as they will be in Israel and the West Bank.”
The president will first stop in Israel on his July 13-16 trip.
Biden also reported that his administration has made great strides in strengthening US-Israel and US-Palestinian relations.
“In Israel, we helped end a war in Gaza – which could easily have lasted months – in just 11 days,” Biden wrote. “We’ve worked with Israel, Egypt, Qatar and Jordan to maintain the peace without permitting terrorists to rearm. We also rebuilt US ties with the Palestinians. Working with Congress, my administration restored approximately $500 million in support for Palestinians, while also passing the largest support package for Israel – over $4 billion – in history. And this week, an Israeli prime minister spoke with the president of the Palestinian Authority for the first time in five years.”
Saudi Arabia visit controversy
Biden defended his decision to travel to Saudi Arabia saying human rights would be on his agenda as he gave a preview of a trip on which he aims to reset ties with the crown prince, who he previously denounced as a pariah.
Biden will hold bilateral talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his leadership team, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his visit to the Middle East next week.
"I will be the first president to visit the Middle East since 9/11 without U.S. troops engaged in a combat mission there. It's my aim to keep it that way"President Joe Biden
“I will be the first president to visit the Middle East since 9/11 without US troops engaged in a combat mission there. It’s my aim to keep it that way.”
Crown Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, was believed to be behind the 2018 murder of The Washington Post journalist and political opponent Jamal Khashoggi, according to the US intelligence community.
In a commentary published in The Washington Post late on Saturday, Biden said his aim was to reorient and not rupture relations with a country that has been a US strategic partner for 80 years.
Biden needs oil-rich Saudi Arabia’s help at a time of high gasoline prices and as he encourages efforts to end the war in Yemen after the Saudis recently extended a ceasefire there. The US also wants to curb Iran’s influence in the Middle East and China’s global sway.
Biden argued that Saudi Arabia had recently helped to restore unity among the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, had fully supported the truce in Yemen and was working to stabilize oil markets with other OPEC producers.