Biden administration staff have been flying into Ben Gurion Airport as preparations intensify for the US president’s official visit to Israel and the West Bank next week.
According to an unconfirmed Channel 12 news report, numerous US transport planes have flown in over recent days, carrying, among other cargo, US President Joe Biden’s armor-plated limousine, “The Beast,” and a fleet of 10 armored limousines that will be used to transport Biden’s entourage.
Two presidential helicopters and six US Army Black Hawk choppers also arrived.
The president’s security delegation and other staff have also been arriving.
Less than a week ahead of Biden’s visit, the Israeli security establishment is expressing concerns about the possibility of an escalation in the West Bank during the president’s trip, Channel 12 news reported Thursday, without citing sources.
According to the report, the fact that Biden is not expected to announce any major peace initiative during his visit will spark unrest among Palestinians. Security officials have reportedly instructed the Palestinian Authority to expand its operations in Jenin, seen as a hotbed of terrorist activity.
The main rationale behind Biden’s trip is to promote “regional integration” between Israel and its Arab neighbors, an Israeli official said Wednesday.
The official said Biden will receive a welcome ceremony upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport next Wednesday afternoon. He will hold bilateral meetings with Israeli leaders Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog, and meet with opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. He is also scheduled to visit an Iron Dome battery, tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, and hold a virtual meeting with Lapid, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed.
In a first for a US president, Biden is expected to then visit East Jerusalem, making a trip to one of the medical centers in the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, before traveling to Ramallah on Friday for a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, followed by a direct flight to Jeddah for the GCC+3 conference.
During the visit, Biden will receive the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor from President Herzog.
The honor is being awarded to recognize Biden’s “true friendship with the State of Israel, the people of Israel, and the Jewish People; his uncompromising decades-long commitment to Israel’s security; his contributions to deepening, strengthening, and enhancing the strong and unwavering alliance between Israel and the United States of America; and his struggle against anti-Israeli and antisemitic hatred around the world,” said the president’s office.
In anticipation of Biden’s visit, the Prime Minister’s Office unveiled a special logo on Thursday intended to accompany official communications surrounding the trip.
“The symbol reflects the security and civilian cooperation between the US and Israel and the alliance between the two countries,” the PMO statement said.
Richard Nixon was the first US president to visit Israel in 1974, while the most recent visit took place in 2017 when Donald Trump made the journey.
Jacob Magid and Lazar Berman contributed to this report.