Biden heads to Middle East for first tour as US President

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JERUSALEM – US President Joe Biden arrives in the Middle East on Wednesday, where Israeli leaders will call for stronger sanctions against Iran before heading to Saudi Arabia.

Air Force One, which has already left the United States, is scheduled to arrive in Tel Aviv at 1230 GMT.

The 79-year-old president will visit Israeli leaders looking to expand collaboration against Iran, as well as Palestinian leaders angry by Washington’s unwillingness to rein in Israeli aggression.

For Biden, who first visited the region after being elected to the Senate in 1973, the recurring difficulties of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy are nothing new.

Iran and Israel were once allies, but the Jewish state now sees Tehran as its greatest threat.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister who assumed office less than two weeks ago, has stated that talks will “first and mainly focus on the issue of Iran.”

The Israeli military will display Biden its new Iron Beam system, an anti-drone laser it claims is critical to fighting Iran’s UAV fleet, shortly after he arrives.

Israel vows it would do all it takes to deter Iran’s nuclear goals, and it is vehemently opposed to restoring the 2015 deal that granted Tehran sanctions relief.

Israel says it would raise 1,000 flags throughout Jerusalem to greet the US president, who has not overturned former President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to proclaim Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

Palestinians claim Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital and have accused Biden of failing to fulfill his vow to reinstate the US as an honest broker in the conflict.

“We just hear empty words and no achievements,” said Jibril Rajoub, a representative of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’ secular Fatah faction.

Biden will meet Abbas in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday, but no big moves toward a new peace process are expected, meaning the visit may only exacerbate Palestinian dissatisfaction.

Israel is similarly engaged in political impasse as it prepares for elections on November 1st, the fifth in less than four years.

The shooting of popular Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh in May while she was documenting an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank has recently strained US-Palestinian relations.

The UN has ruled that the Palestinian-American national was killed by Israeli fire, which Washington believed was likely but stated there was no indication of intentionality.

The family of Abu Akleh has expressed “outrage” at the Biden administration’s “abject response” to her death, and the White House has not responded to their request to meet with the president in Jerusalem.

Source: Arab News

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