Biden: Visit is meant to integrate Israel in the region

That goal of integration is “why Israel leaders have come out so strongly for my going to Saudi,” Biden stated.

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One for a flight to Los Angeles this week. If Biden is coming to the Mideast to criticize and slow Israeli building in Judea and Samaria and greater Jerusalem, pull back, says the writer. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One for a flight to Los Angeles this week. If Biden is coming to the Mideast to criticize and slow Israeli building in Judea and Samaria and greater Jerusalem, pull back, says the writer.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

A central objective of US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the Middle East is to further integrate Israel into the region, he said on Thursday.

“I am, as I said, going to Israel to meet with Israeli leaders to affirm the unbreakable bond Israel and the United States have,” Biden said, when asked about the trip during a news conference in Madrid. “And part of the purpose is — the trip to the Middle East — is to deepen Israel’s integration in the region, which I think we’re going to be able to do and which is good — good for peace and good for Israeli security.”

That goal of integration is “why Israel leaders have come out so strongly for my going to Saudi,” Biden stated.

Israel’s leaders encouraged Biden to visit Saudi Arabia, despite the president’s past call for it to be a “pariah” because of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The president is set to visit Israel on July 13-14, and continue from there to Jeddah for a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council the following day.

 US Vice President Joe Biden speaks as he delivers a joint statement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Jerusalem March 9, 2016. (credit: REUTERS/DEBBIE HILL/POOL) US Vice President Joe Biden speaks as he delivers a joint statement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Jerusalem March 9, 2016. (credit: REUTERS/DEBBIE HILL/POOL)

Israel and the Gulf States “ have real concerns about what’s going on in Iran and other places in terms of their security,” he said.

Biden pushed back against an assertion that the trip was about asking Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, in light of the rising price of gas in the US.

Biden said that he does not have a planned meeting specifically with the Saudi king or crown prince, but that they will be part of the larger GCC meeting. He plans to ask all Gulf States to increase oil production, not just the Saudis.

“That’s not the purpose of the trip,” he said. “First of all, I’m starting off on that trip in Israel. And the Israelis... believe it’s really important that I make the trip. And in addition to that, it’s the Gulf States plus three. And so it’s in Saudi Arabia, but it’s not about Saudi Arabia. There’s a whole range of things that go well beyond anything having to do with Saudi in particular.”

Another matter Biden said he would discuss in Jeddah is “to try to reduce the deaths in the war that’s occurring in Yemen.”