LIVE UPDATES: Biden lands in Israel with security concerns setting the tone

attributed to him…Doug Mills/The New York Times

JERUSALEM – President Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday for Visit the Middle East for four days He will focus on slowing Iran’s nuclear program, transferring oil to US gas pumps, and improving relations with Saudi Arabia.

As Mr. Biden descended from Air Force One, Israeli officials including President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Yair Lapid and former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett were waiting to greet Mr. Biden, along with US Ambassador Thomas R. Nides.

After exiting the plane, Biden descended the stairs and clenched the fists of a waiting official while Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken. Then the national anthems of both countries were played.

In his welcome address, Mr. Lapid described Mr. Biden’s visit as historic and highly personal.

“It is historical,” said Mr. Lapid, “because it expresses the inextricable bond between our two countries,” adding, “It is also a personal visit, because your relationship with Israel has always been personal. You once identified yourself as a Zionist. You said you don’t have to be. A Jew until you are a Zionist. You were right, and in your case: a great Zionist and one of the best friends Israel has ever known.”

Mr. Lapid also confirmed that the two leaders will discuss Iran and their joint efforts to enhance cooperation among the countries of the Middle East. Once isolated in the region, Israel is increasingly involved in regional diplomacy Notable Diplomatic Deals with Three Arab countries In 2020 – officials hope more progress will be made during Mr. Biden’s visit.

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Mr Biden, who was wearing aviator sunglasses, said it was “a great honor to once again be standing with friends and visiting the independent Jewish state of Israel”.

He recalled visiting Israel as a young senator for the first time in 1973 – a few months before the Arab-Israeli war, also known as the Yom Kippur War – and speaking with Golda Meir, Israel’s first of 11 prime ministers, Mr. Biden. met yet.

On Wednesday, the US President reiterated his strong support for Israel and his support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after criticism that his administration did not prioritize the issue.

“We will discuss my continued support, although I know not in a new period, for a two-state solution which remains in my view the best way to ensure an equal future of freedom, prosperity, and democracy for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” Biden said.

Prior to his arrival, the Israeli government made several small initiatives towards the Palestinians, including granting some new work permits to Gaza residents. But there are few expectations that Mr. Biden’s visit will have a significant impact on Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, cut a fringe figure at the welcoming ceremony. Now out of office, he is the leader of the opposition and will have only a short meeting with the president on Thursday.

But the two men’s warm, if often fraught, relationship stretches back four decades, and Biden has been keen to seek out Mr. Netanyahu during a group photo of Israeli and US officials. Mr. Biden gave Mr. Netanyahu long, snuggly clips, and the two men gave the impression that they were happy to see each other.

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At the end of the reception, the current Israeli prime minister, Mr. Lapid, joked about his and Biden’s course since a previous meeting between the two in Washington.

He told Mr. Biden, “I don’t know if you remember, but eight years ago we met in the White House when I was Vice President. You told me, ‘If my hair were like yours, I would be President,'” and I replied, “If I only had your height, I would I will be prime minister.”

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