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High jinks

Biden’s team lands at Ben Gurion to find no way of getting off

Absent stairs, hair jokes with Lapid, the hot weather, Gantz’s struggle with a water bottle and the handshake with Netanyahu: The lighter side of Biden’s arrival

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

A member of US President Joe Biden's team opens the door of the Air Force One aircraft upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport, only to find that no stairs were attached to the plane, July 13, 2022. (Screenshot/GPO video)
A member of US President Joe Biden's team opens the door of the Air Force One aircraft upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport, only to find that no stairs were attached to the plane, July 13, 2022. (Screenshot/GPO video)

Despite the rigorous preparations at Ben Gurion Airport ahead of US President Joe Biden’s landing in Israel on Wednesday, the president’s arrival provided some unexpected, amusing and even risky moments.

Upon landing, a member of Biden’s entourage was shocked to open the door of the Air Force One aircraft and discover that no stairs had been attached to the plane, providing a few awkward and potentially dangerous seconds before the stairs were rolled in.

After managing to depart Air Force One, Biden was greeted by Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog.

Speaking with Biden after a brief welcoming ceremony, Lapid reminded him of a conversation they had eight years ago in then-vice president Biden’s office in Washington.

“You told me that if you had my hair, you would be president of the United States, and I said to you that if I had your height, I would be Israel’s prime minister,” Lapid said, according to a statement released by his office.

The heat also proved a challenge, and Israeli officials found creative ways of dealing with it.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid (left) greets US President Joe Biden at Ben Gurion Airport, July 13, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“It’s an honor to once again stand with friends and visit the independent Jewish state of Israel,” Biden began in his prepared remarks before several dozen high-profile guests seated in bleachers.

But while these enjoyed the shade of an awning, cabinet ministers were given no protection from the sun in 85-plus degree Fahrenheit heat. Instead, they were placed on a slightly elevated stage that was apparently was left unshaded in order to maintain the lighting necessary for a group photo with Biden and his top aides at the end of the ceremony.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was spotted sitting in another shaded area nearby.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who was evidently thirsty, tried to open a water bottle but for some reason did so with his teeth.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the stunt was successful.

One touching moment during the ceremony was Biden’s meeting with Netanyahu, who, despite his position as opposition leader, received a full handshake, while Lapid, Herzog and Bennett were only given courteous fist bumps, apparently as a precaution relating to COVID.

Approaching Netanyahu, Biden shook his hand and told him, “You know I love you.”

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu (C) takes a seat at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, July 13, 2022, ahead of US President Joe Biden’s arrival for an official visit. (Jack Guez/AFP)

During a meeting between the two in 2014, Biden told the former prime minister: “Bibi, I don’t agree with a damn thing you say, but I love you.”

Biden is slated to meet with Netanyahu briefly on Thursday.

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