The White House has confirmed that President Joe Biden will travel to the Middle East in mid-July. He intends to visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia. The trip will be used to address outstanding bilateral and multilateral issues, including convincing the Saudis to pump more oil to bring down fuel prices. Among the key topics to be discussed will be the alleged Iran threat, a possible security alliance between Israel and Gulf states backed by Washington, the status of the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, and the future of the Palestinian Authority.
Biden has agreed to a controversial meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, in which he will ask the Kingdom to agree to “normalize” relations with Israel in addition to increasing its oil exports. There has also been considerable pressure on Biden to seek a commitment from the Prince to take steps to improve human rights in his country, but the subject is not likely to come up as it is Biden who is seeking concessions from the Saudis. The Prince, for his part, ordered the October 2018 killing of US resident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. Khashoggi had been highly critical of the Saudi monarchy, particularly regarding its human rights record. Some in Congress and the media have described the private meeting as inappropriate given that fact.
Indeed, pumping more oil aside, the trip is largely about doing many things to help Israel, which is expected to produce favorable reporting in the US media preceding the November mid-term election. Biden even described the trip as being “for Israel” and that loud sucking noise you hear is his repeated pledges of loyalty to the Jewish state. He has described himself as a “Zionist” and has enthused “My commitment to Israel is known and engraved in rock.” Lest there be any confusion in spite of all that, the White House statement regarding the trip also made very clear that the president will “reinforce the United States’ iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity.” That means that Israel will not be pressured over its appalling human rights record, worse even than Saudi Arabia’s, to include the recent assassination of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. On the contrary, Biden is bearing gifts to reward the Israelis for being such great friends, including a proposal that increases US financial and logistical support for the Jewish state’s air and missile defense systems, which are already largely funded by Washington.