Jerusalem (CNN) – President Joe Biden is doing something he has never done on a foreign tour as he arrives here on Wednesday: embracing one of his predecessor’s lasting achievements.
The majority of Biden’s foreign travel during his first 18 months in office was devoted to undoing former President Donald Trump’s foreign policy and shoring up tattered alliances; however, on his first visit to the Middle East, he will support the Abraham Accords, which were signed during the Trump administration and normalized relations between Israel and several Arab countries, and he will work to strengthen the developing security and economic ties between Israel and the Arab world.
Just after 8 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Biden arrived in Tel Aviv, where he promised to strengthen ties between Israel and the US as well as with other nations in the area.
“We’ll continue to advance Israel’s integration into the region, expand emerging forums and engagement,” Biden said. “Greater peace, greater stability, greater connection. It’s critical. It’s critical if I might add, for all the people of the region.”
On Wednesday after his arrival, Biden was briefed on the modern Iron Beam laser-enabled system and the Iron Dome missile defense system. He paid a visit to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, later in the day.
US officials have been attempting to arrange deals that will bring Israel and Saudi Arabia — which do not have diplomatic relations — closer to normalization in the run-up to the trip by strengthening Israeli-Arab security coordination and coordinating the trip.
According to people with knowledge of the incident, Saudi Arabia is anticipated to make an announcement this week allowing all commercial flights to and from Israel to use its airspace as well as permitting Israel’s Muslim minority to take charter flights directly to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj, the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca. Additionally, Biden will take a direct flight from Israel to Saudi Arabia, which he described as “a small symbol of the budding relations” between the two nations.
Although covert coordination between the two nations has increased, senior Biden administration officials said full normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel remains a long way off.
“It’s changed the security situation in the Middle East,” a senior US official said of the Abraham Accords signed in late 2020. “Our job is to go deeper with the countries that have signed up and to go wider if we can.”
Palestinian officials are unhappy with the Biden administration’s focus on deepening normalization accords with Israel and Arab nations. They would rather see the US revive the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian peace process. However, US officials claim that their emphasis on Arab-Israeli normalization is a realization of global realities, including the trend toward increasing ties between the two countries and the political impasse in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
A step toward Israeli-Palestinian peace is something the administration wants to see, according to two senior administration officials, but the White House has opted against trying the high-level shuttle diplomacy that previous administrations have tried since it is likely to fail.
“We’re very careful about setting objectives, particularly in the Middle East. Where administrations have gotten themselves in deep trouble is by promising the Moon and not being able to deliver and wasting time and resources and investment,” a senior administration official said. “Had we launched a peace process, there would have been nobody at the table.”
“If the parties are ready to talk, we are always going to be right there to help, but we are not going to come out with some top-down mandated plan and create expectations that can’t be met,” the official said.