Biden will travel to Israel and Jordan on Wednesday to prevent escalation of Middle East crisis

The visit ‘comes at a critical moment for Israel, the region and the entire world,’ said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, when announcing the trip

Joe Biden viajará a Israel y Jordania
U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to speak at Tioga Marine Terminal on October 13, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.Mark Makela (Getty Images)
Macarena Vidal Liy

U.S. President Joe Biden will travel first to Israel and then to Jordan on Wednesday. The visit is intended, firstly, to show solidarity with one of the country’s staunchest allies in the region, following the Hamas attack of October 7. And secondly, to negotiate to introduce humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip, pressure Israel to contain its response to the attacks and prevent the conflict from spreading in the region.

In Israel, Biden will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, he will “demonstrate his steadfast support for Israel in the face of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack and to consult on next steps.” In Jordan, Biden will meet with King Abdullah II, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al Sisi, whose country is home to Rafah, the only crossing to Gaza not controlled by Israel. There, he “will reiterate that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination and discuss the humanitarian needs of civilians in Gaza,” the White House said.

Biden’s visit comes “at a critical moment for Israel, for the region and for the world,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who announced the trip early Tuesday morning in Tel Aviv after more than seven hours of meetings with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.

The United States and other regional powers are negotiating with Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. Washington is also negotiating with Egypt to allow Gaza residents with foreign passports to exit through Rafah, but Egyptian authorities claim that it cannot open the crossing because Israel is not cooperating. While declaring its unwavering support for Israel, Washington is pressuring Israel to contain the severity of its response to the Hamas attacks and prevent the crisis from escalating into a conflict involving other countries in the region. Iran warned on Monday that Hezbollah could launch a preemptive attack “in the coming hours.”

The trip was given the green light relatively quickly, after the Israeli prime minister invited Biden to visit in a telephone conversation on Saturday. But the decision was made with care. Biden was leaning toward going, in what will be his second visit to a war zone, after his surprise trip to Ukraine last February. The U.S. president is confident of his personal relationship with Netanyahu, which has greatly improved since the two made peace in New York in September after serious disagreements over Israel’s controversial judicial reform and its plans to expand its West Bank settlements. Biden believes he can persuade Netanyahu to avoid excesses that could trigger a major conflict in the region.

In terms of the advantages of the trip, it is a strong sign of support for an ally and sends an unequivocal message to Iran and its militia in Lebanon, Hezbollah, warning them not to intervene in the conflict. As for the cons: it can be interpreted as a blank check to Netanyahu amid growing concerns about the situation inside Gaza and the prospect of a bloody Israeli military campaign. Following the Hamas attacks, which killed 1,400 people, the vast majority civilians, Israeli bombings have already left 2,750 dead and 9,700 wounded in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

It is also a security risk. A danger that became evident when Netanyahu and Blinken had to lock themselves in a bunker when rockets were exploding nearby. The White House said that it is confident in its security measures. “We wouldn’t make a trip, obviously, if we did not believe that proper security parameters would be in place,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a call with reporters.

Biden spent Monday in meetings in the Oval Office, speaking with his advisors and with other international leaders: from Sisi to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who himself plans to visit Israel on Tuesday. Biden cancelled at the last minute a trip to the state of Colorado, where he was scheduled to promote his economic and clean energy program.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Biden has expressed his strong support for Israel, although in recent days he has also insisted on the need to guarantee humanitarian aid for the residents trapped in Gaza in the face of the military campaign planned by the Netanyahu government.

In an interview broadcast on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Biden declared on Sunday that he was opposed to an Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip. “I think it’d be a big mistake,” he said, in his clearest attempt to contain Israel’s response since the beginning of the crisis. Biden said he supports Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas, but added that this must be achieved with “a path to a Palestinian state.”

When announcing the trip from Tel Aviv, Blinken — who will continue a week-long tour of key U.S. partners in the Middle East in Jordan on Tuesday — said Biden “will reaffirm the United States’ solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security.” “Israel has the right and indeed the duty to defend its people from Hamas and other terrorists and to prevent future attacks,” he added.

Blinken indicated that throughout his marathon meeting with Netanyahu, he has received assurances from Israel that a plan will be designed between the two countries to allow humanitarian assistance into Gaza. Biden, Blinken said, expects to “hear from Israel how it will conduct its operations in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and enables humanitarian assistance to flow to civilians in Gaza in a way that does not benefit Hamas.”

In their talks, Blinken and Netanyahu addressed the possibility of creating safe zones for civilians. “We share Israel’s concern that Hamas may seize or destroy aid entering Gaza or otherwise prevent it from reaching the people who need it.” the secretary of state said.

On his whirlwind trip to the area, Biden will also try to press for the release of hostages captured by Hamas. The militants are holding up to 250 people, according to former Hamas leader Khaled Meshal.

At the same time that the president’s trip was announced, it was also leaked to the U.S. media that the Pentagon is preparing to deploy about 2,000 troops to the area. These soldiers could participate in non-combat support missions for Israeli forces, ranging from medical assistance to explosive ordnance disposal.

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