With violence in the Middle East threatening to spiral out of control and US ship movements underway and troop deployments in the preparation stages, President Biden will travel to Israel and Jordan on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Monday night.
“The President will reaffirm the United States’ solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security,” said Blinken. “President Biden will again make clear, as he’s done unequivocally since Hamas’s slaughter of more than 1,400 people, including at least 30 Americans, that Israel has the right and indeed the duty to defend its people.”
Blinken’s announcement was a product of his marathon meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet in Tel Aviv. Blinken outlined five items on Biden’s agenda during his discussions with Israel. Biden seeks to:
- Ask Israel what it needs from the United States to defend itself. In recent times, the US government has redistributing more than $3 billion in American wealth to Israel every year. When factoring in income and purchasing power, Israel is the 34th-richest country in the world.
- Communicate to both state and non-state actors that they shouldn’t seek to take advantage of the crisis to attack Israel. No such public warning about opportunistic attacks was given to Israel, which last week bombed Syria’s two main international airports in Damascus and Aleppo.
- Coordinate on efforts to achieve the release of hostages taken by Hamas. The group claims to have between 200 and 250 hostages, which could include some 20 Americans. On Monday, Hamas released its first hostage video.
- Receive a briefing on Israel’s war objectives and strategies.
- Hear how Israel intends to minimize civilian casualties and allow the flow of humanitarian assistance. Gaza is home to more than 2 million people, and the international community is growing increasingly wary of a humanitarian disaster after Israel cut off the territory’s food, water, electricity and medicine supply.
Another colleague in Gaza who didn’t evacuate the north says people are now drinking contaminated water, the humanitarian disaster is more deadly than the bombing. Hundreds of victims trapped under rubble for days because rescue workers are bombed trying to get to them. pic.twitter.com/yzePEq8p6u
— Abby Martin (@AbbyMartin) October 17, 2023
Some observers speculate that Israel isn’t likely to launch an anticipated ground offensive into Gaza while Biden is in Israel. The specifics of Biden’s Israel itinerary have not yet been released. Biden’s presence will set the stage for a major Hamas provocation, if the group wants one: Since the Oct 7 attacks, Hamas has demonstrated that Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are within its rocket range.
⚡️The moment Knesset members fled and the House was evacuated after the sirens sounded due to a rocket salvo fired at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. pic.twitter.com/sCsd1Q4cGM
— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) October 16, 2023
When he visited Israel as vice president in 2010, Biden was on the receiving end of a humiliation delivered by a previous Netanyahu government. With Biden still in the country, Netanyahu’s interior minister blindsided the Obama administration by announcing the approval of 1,600 more housing units for Jews in hotly-contested East Jerusalem, where many Palestinians aspire to position the capital of a Palestinian state. Biden promptly condemned the announcement as “precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now.”
This week, after Israel, Biden will proceed to Amman, Jordan, for meetings with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Watch for Israel-visits to become a hot trend among attention-seeking US politicians. On the same evening of Biden’s announcement, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she’d be making a visit of her own on Tuesday. “During these difficult times, it’s more important than ever for New York to show up in support of Israel,” she said in a statement. “New York will show the world that we stand with Israel – today, tomorrow and forever.”