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Next Month, Biden Will Travel to Israel and ‘pariah’ Saudi Arabia

The White House said Tuesday that President Joe Biden will visit Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia during his maiden trip to the Middle East next month.

The decision to pay a visit to Saudi authorities on the July 13-16 trip comes after Biden, as a Democratic presidential candidate, referred to the kingdom as a “pariah” for its human rights record and committed to reshaping the US-Saudi alliance.

According to a senior administration source who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, Biden planned to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler. According to US intelligence experts, Prince Mohammed undoubtedly ordered the assassination of U.S.-based writer Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Following Biden’s inauguration, his administration made it clear that the president would avoid direct involvement with the crown prince in favour of focusing on King Salman.

Human rights campaigners and some Democratic supporters warned Biden against visiting the oil-rich monarchy without first obtaining human rights assurances, arguing that doing so would send a message to Saudi leaders that severe rights violations had no consequences. Saudi Arabia has been accused of suppressing opposition through widespread arrests, killings, and violence.

At a time when gas prices are skyrocketing, concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme are growing, and the United States is constantly concerned about China’s global expansion, Biden and his national security team have determined that freezing out the Saudis, particularly the crown prince, is simply not in the country’s best interests.

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Saudi Arabia helped nudge OPEC+ to increase oil output by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August, and the country agreed to extend an UN-mediated cease-fire in its seven-year conflict with Yemen, according to the White House. The Saudi cease-fire decision, according to Biden, was “courageous.” According to the administration official, Prince Mohammed, also known by his initials MBS, played a “key role” in brokering a cease-fire extension.

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In a statement announcing the Middle East trip, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said King Salman invited Biden to visit the kingdom during a gathering of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — as well as Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan in the port city of Jeddah.

“While in Saudi Arabia, the President will meet with his counterparts to discuss a variety of bilateral, regional, and global concerns. Support for the UN-mediated cease-fire in Yemen, which has resulted in the country’s most tranquil period since the war began seven years ago,” Jean-Pierre remarked. “He will also explore ways to strengthen regional economic and security cooperation, including new and potential infrastructure and climate initiatives, as well as deterring Iranian threats, supporting human rights, and ensuring global energy and food security,” according to the statement.

Biden’s first destination on his Middle East tour will be Israel, where he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for a long-awaited meeting. He will then travel to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority leaders, including Mahmoud Abbas. Biden’s journey will come to a close with a visit to Jeddah, where he will meet with GCC leaders and speak with King Salman, the crown prince, and other Saudi officials.

Bennett’s journey to Israel comes at a difficult time for his shaky coalition, as he strives to avoid another election and the re-election of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the advancement of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Biden’s visit to Israel falls during the Maccabiah Games, an athletic event that attracts thousands of Jewish and Israeli competitors from all over the world. Biden, who first visited Israel over 50 years ago as a young senator, is set to meet with athletes competing in the games.

In their discussions with the Biden administration, Israeli officials have emphasised the importance of US connections with Arab capitals, notably Riyadh, for Israel’s security and regional stability. The visit might also serve as a springboard for negotiations aimed at mending Israeli-Saudi relations, which the administration regards as a longer-term goal.

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“Look,” Biden continued, “I’m not going to modify my mind about human rights.” “However, it is my job as President of the United States to bring peace if I can, peace if I can.” And that is exactly what I want to accomplish.”

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