The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.
A Palestinian suspect was arrested by Israeli troops after attempting to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces says the man, armed with a knife, was detained at the northern section of the fence.
He has been taken for further questioning, the IDF says.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah issues a direct message to Defense Minister Benny Gantz in a speech, dismissing his threats against the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group.
“You’re threatening Lebanon while your army has failed to advance a few meters in blockaded Gaza,” Nasrallah says to Gantz, according to the Iranian Mehr News Agency. “Your threat to invade Beirut, Sidon and Tyre is trivial.”
Nasrallah repeats once again the Hezbollah threat to prevent Israel from extracting gas from the Karish gas field, and dismisses US efforts to mediate between Jerusalem and Beirut on its maritime dispute.
In recent weeks, the IDF said it foiled several drones heading from Lebanon toward the Karish gas field, which Israel says is in its waters though Beirut claims it is situated in Lebanese waters.
Sending those drones, Nasrallah reportedly says, “terrifies the companies operating in the field.” Hezbollah could send more drones in the future, he adds.
“Resistance is the only power that can protect Lebanon and its resources,” says Nasrallah. “Never let the US deceive you by wasting time and letting ‘Israel’ extract the maritime gas.”
Nasrallah also says that Biden’s current visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia is merely aimed at “forcing the Gulf States to export more gas and oil and sustaining Israel’s security.”
He adds that Biden has “nothing” to present to the Palestinian people on his trip.
Biden: ‘No possibility’ Democratic Party will abandon Israel; ‘would not be disappointed’ to face Trump in 2024
US President Joe Biden tells an Israeli TV network that the Democratic Party will always remain a friend to Israel, despite a minority of dissenting voices in the party.
“There are a few of them, I think they’re wrong,” Biden tells Channel 12 news about the handful of Democratic members of Congress who oppose the level of US support for Israel. “I think they’re making a mistake, Israel is a democracy, Israel is our ally, Israel is our friend.”
Citing US funding for Israeli defense projects including the Iron Dome and the new laser-based Iron Beam, Biden says that “it’s overwhelmingly in our interest that Israel be stable.”
Asked if Israel should be concerned about the future of the Democratic party, Biden says an emphatic “no.”
“There’s no possibility of the Democratic Party, or even a significant portion of the Republican Party walking away from Israel,” Biden says.
Asked whether he is predicting a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024, Biden says: “I’m not predicting. But I would not be disappointed.”
He is asked: So you look forward to that? “No,” he replies. “Look, the one thing I know about politics, and American politics in particular, is that there is no way to predict what is going to happen. I’m not even halfway through my term yet, so there’s a lot of room to figure out what’s going to happen.”
Biden arrived in Israel Wednesday afternoon and immediately began a hectic agenda during which he will meet regional leaders for talks.
Channel 12 has an unsourced report on some of what was said when Biden was briefed by Israeli security chiefs at Ben Gurion Airport earlier.
Much of the focus, unsurprisingly, was on Iran. Among the key points reportedly put to the president:
• Iran has spent billions recently to develop and arm itself with new weapons.
• It is also distributing the weaponry to various groups in the region; Biden was told which groups, and what equipment each got.
• Defense Minister Gantz detailed for Biden a list of security agreements, some of them new, reached between Israel and states in the region that are not part of the Abraham Accords; he reportedly asked that the US help advance these agreements further and eventually enable them to be made public.
The report also said that the US and Israel soon intend to expand a much-discussed regional air defense alliance to also include naval and cyber defense.
An officer wounded during a gun battle with smugglers in 2014 has been tapped to head the co-ed light infantry Caracal battalion, the military says.
Or Livni will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the coming months, and will be the first woman to head one of the military’s four co-ed light infantry battalions.
In October 2014, Livni, while serving as a company captain, came under fire from both machine guns and anti-tank missiles on the Egyptian border, leaving her and another soldier wounded. Three of the assailants were killed.
The US and Palestinian Authority cannot agree on the wording of a possible joint statement to be issued when visiting US President Joe Biden meets PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on Friday, Channel 12 reports.
The United States was prepared to have such a statement speak of a two-state solution, with the Palestinian state to have its capital in East Jerusalem. But the PA wanted phrasing saying the capital of the Palestinian state would be East Jerusalem.
The unsourced report says Abbas, despite this disagreement and wider dissatisfaction with Biden’s positions, is telling his hierarchy not to criticize the US president. Nonetheless, demonstrations against Biden are expected in Ramallah tomorrow, Channel 12 says, with protesters expected to declare that Biden is not welcome.
Channel 12 also says Israel rejected two requests raised by the Americans relating to the Palestinians ahead of Biden’s arrival — requests raised by US officials, not leaders.
The first request was to set up a joint panel of some kind, involving Israel, the US, Jordan and the Palestinians, to discuss “the status quo in Jerusalem” — a presumed reference to the Temple Mount, and especially Jewish prayer there. Israel rejected this request out of hand, the report says.
The second request was to formulate and issue a joint statement condemning violence, presumably from all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel agreed that all violence must be condemned, but said no to such a statement because it would imply equal responsibility for the violence, the report said.
US President Joe Biden tells Israel’s Channel 12 news that while he hopes to begin building closer ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, full normalization will “take a long time.”
In an interview with the network’s Yonit Levi recorded yesterday evening at the White House, Biden says that his direct flight between Israel and Saudi Arabia is “about stability in the Middle East.”
“It’s in the overwhelming interest of the United States of America to have more stability in the Middle East,” Biden says. “It’s in the overwhelming interest of the United States and the region for Israel to be more integrated in the region and accepted as an equal.”
In addition, Biden says, “the more Israel is integrated into the region as an equal and accepted, the more likely there is going to be a means that they can eventually come to an accommodation with the Palestinians down the road.”
Full normalization with Saudi Arabia, he says “is going to take a long time.”
“But increasing the relationship in terms of acceptance of each other’s presence, working together on certain things, it all makes sense to me,” the president adds.
When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Biden says, he believes in ongoing dialogue, even if a solution seems far off.
The most recent war between Israel and Gaza, Biden says, “lasted days, not months, because I got deeply involved in talking with all the leadership, whether it was with Israel, with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, whether it was with the Egyptians.”
“It always matters to talk, to see if you can reach any consensus even on small things,” he adds.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid sits down at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
No details of their meeting were immediately available.
Blinken landed earlier today with US President Joe Biden for a brief trip to Israel. Blinken, whose stepfather is a Holocaust survivor, accompanied Biden and a large Israeli delegation to Yad Vashem.
Lapid and Biden are slated to meet tomorrow.
US President Joe Biden tells Israel’s Channel 12 news that he would resort to using force against Iran as a “last resort” to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The network’s Yonit Levi asks Biden if the US would use force to stop Iran’s nuclear program, and Biden replies: “As a last resort, yes.”
Biden also says that the US would walk away from the stalled nuclear deal if it was contingent upon removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the terror blacklist.
In the interview, he also says that rejoining the deal is “up to Iran now.”
Levi asks Biden if he received any commitments from Prime Minister Yair Lapid or former prime minister Naftali Bennett that Israel would not act without first notifying the US. Biden replies: “I’m not going to discuss that.”
Six candidates remain in the running to replace UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after today’s first round of voting, the Conservative Party announces, with finance minister Nadhim Zahawi and former foreign minister Jeremy Hunt eliminated.
Rishi Sunak, who quit as finance minister last week to trigger Johnson’s downfall, leads the pack with the support of 88 Tory MPs, followed by Penny Mordaunt, with 67, who polling shows is most popular with the party membership that will ultimately decide the race.
US President Joe Biden tells Channel 12 news anchor Yonit Levi that he still believes the US should return to the Iran nuclear deal — and that the situation is now in Iran’s hands.
Asked why he believes the deal should be resurrected, Biden says that “the only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons.”
Speaking to the Israeli TV network shortly before he departed Washington for Tel Aviv, Biden says he thinks it was “a gigantic mistake” for former US president Donald Trump to pull out of the deal.
“They’re closer to a nuclear weapon than they were before,” Biden says of Iran, saying that “I still think it makes sense” to rejoin the deal.
“It’s up to Iran now,” he adds.
The full interview will air later this evening.
US President Joe Biden signs the Yad Vashem visitors’ book following the wreath-laying ceremony, emphasizing what an honor it is to be back in Israel, and the importance of remembering the Holocaust.
“It can happen again unless we remember,” Biden writes. “That is what I teach my children and grandchildren — Never Forget.”
Speaking to US President Joe Biden at a display of Israel’s air defense systems, Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanks him for funding for additional Iron Dome interceptor missiles.
“Under your rule, honorable president, security cooperation in the region has intensified and expanded in an unprecedented manner and Israel is grateful for this, and also for your support with record US security assistance that included a billion dollars to replenish Iron Dome interceptors,” Gantz tells Biden according to remarks provided by his office.
Gantz says the military cooperation in the region includes “many countries that see a need for stability and the development of sustainable peace.”
“Strengthening the security stability the United States is leading in the region, is a condition for both economic development and preserving human rights, and I am sure that under your leadership and together with all US security bodies, we will continue to develop it in all areas — air, sea, land and cyber,” Gantz says.
“The alliance between Israel and the United States is stronger than ever, and Israel is confident that the president will continue to take the necessary steps to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” Gantz adds.
A 36-year-old Israeli man is lightly hurt after stones are hurled at his vehicle on Route 465 near the settlement of Ofarim in the West Bank, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
The Rescuers Without Border emergency service says the stones were thrown from a Palestinian vehicle.
The wounded man is taken by MDA to Beilinson Hospital In Petah Tikvah.
US President Joe Biden visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, where he rekindles the Eternal Flame in the Hall of Remembrance, and lays a wreath on the slab under which ashes of extermination camp victims are interred.
During the ceremony, Biden is flanked by President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Secretary Benny Gantz, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Holocaust survivor and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, and Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan.
A choir sings the song “A Walk to Caesarea,” or “Eli, Eli” written by Hungarian Jewish World War II resistance fighter Hannah Szenes, who was executed in Hungary in 1944.
US President Joe Biden speaks with two Holocaust survivors for several minutes at the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.
Biden meets and shakes hands with Rena Quint and Giselle (Gita) Cycowicz. Cycowicz was born in 1927 in Chust, which was then part of Czechoslovakia. She was rounded up and confined in the ghetto before being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and later to forced labor camps, according to Yad Vashem.
Quint was born in 1935 in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland. In 1942, her mother and her two older brothers were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp, where they were murdered. Rena and her father were sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where her father was murdered. She was eventually sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
“I just want you to know, in the Biden family, no woman is as old as any man,” says Biden to the two women, to laughs.
“As my mother would say, God love you, dear,” says Biden. “She wasn’t Jewish, but she was Irish.”
Biden speaks with the two women for longer than scheduled, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken — whose stepfather is a Holocaust survivor — also joins the conversation, as does Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog.
An Israel Defense Forces officer is seriously hurt during “routine activity” in southern Israel earlier today, the military says.
The officer is taken to a hospital and his family has been notified, the IDF adds.
The IDF says the circumstances of the incident are under investigation, without elaborating further.
Israel’s Government Press Office releases an official group photo of US President Joe Biden and a large group of Israeli and US officials at Ben Gurion Airport.
At the center of the photo is Biden, flanked by Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog. Most of the current Israeli ministers are also in the photo, along with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also in the photo, along with a handful of other American officials.
After landing at Ben Gurion Airport and viewing a display of Israeli defense technology, US President Joe Biden heads for Jerusalem.
His first stop in the capital will be the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum, where he will tour the museum, lay a wreath and meet with two Holocaust survivors.
Biden will then head to the King David Hotel in the capital, where he is spending the night ahead of a day of meetings tomorrow.
A bus driver in his 50s was stabbed and moderately hurt on Hatayasim Street in Tel Aviv, the Magen David Adom ambulance service says.
Police say the suspected stabber, a 21-year-old Tel Aviv resident, was arrested after fleeing the scene.
Law enforcement officials believe the incident followed an argument between the driver and the passenger, and was not a terror attack.
The wounded man is taken by MDA to Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan.
Iran’s intelligence ministry says its officers have arrested 10 members of a “terror network” in the country’s northwest, affiliated with separatist groups based in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
“All 10 members of this network, who were entering the country through the border areas of West Azerbaijan province and were supported by separatist terrorists in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, were arrested,” the ministry says.
It claims those arrested were planning various acts “ranging from destruction, explosions and attacks on vital and economic centers and facilities of the country, to creating roadblocks and extortion.”
Communication equipment, weapons and ammunition have also been seized, the ministry adds.
As he greets his Israeli counterpart, US President Joe Biden tells President Isaac Herzog, “I am home,” according to Herzog’s office.
“You certainly are at home, Mr. President,” responds Herzog.
US President Joe Biden arrives at a Defense Ministry display site at the airport, to receive a classified briefing by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other security officials including IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.
Biden is shown Israel’s multi-tier air defense systems, including the Arrow, David’s Sling, Iron Dome, and an in-development high-powered laser interception system dubbed Iron Beam.
Israel hopes to partner with Washington on the Iron Beam project, including American investment in further development and deployment of the system.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu tells reporters on the tarmac after the arrival of US President Joe Biden that Iran can only be stopped with military threats.
“In order to stop regimes like Iran, economic sanctions are not enough, diplomatic sanctions are not enough,” says Netanyahu, who was not part of the official greeting ceremony for the US president but did shake his hand. “There is no way to stop Iran without a credible military threat.”
Netanyahu says the hope is that such threats “will deter” Iran, and if not, “then there is no choice but to activate” them.
Biden did not mention Iran in his remarks after landing, but Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog both said that countering Iran’s nuclear program is a top priority.
After the welcoming ceremony for US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Yair Lapid reminds 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,” says Lapid, according to a statement released by Lapid’s office.
Lapid also compliments the president on his speech.
US President Joe Biden says he will emphasize his support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “even though it’s not [feasible] in the near term.”
He has made the prognosis before, though it is unlikely to please the Palestinian Authority, which is looking for him to use the trip to create a diplomatic horizon for peace talks and act more urgently on the matter.
Turning back to his broader itinerary, Biden says, “We have a full agenda over the next two days because the relationship covers every issue that matters to our mutual future.”
“May Israel and the US continue to grow and prosper together for the benefit of the entire world,” he concludes.
In comments after landing in Israel, US President Joe Biden recalls how his father would “imbue in us a sense of obligation” to never forget the horrors of the Holocaust.
He pledges to “fight the poison of antisemitism wherever it rears its ugly head.”
Turning to the itinerary of the trip, he says he will tour cutting-edge Israeli defense systems, including Iron Dome and Iron Beam.
“We’re going to deepen our connections in science and innovation and work to address new global challenges through the new Strategic Dialogue on Technology,” he says referring to a new collaboration announced earlier today.
He notes the virtual meeting he’ll hold with the leaders of Israel, India and the UAE — a new forum called the I2U2, which will deepen economic cooperation between the Middle East and the Indopacific. Biden says that he will work during his trip to advance Israel’s integration in the region more broadly.
US President Joe Biden hails the ties between the US and Israel in his first speech upon arriving at Ben Gurion Airport.
“It’s an honor to once again stand with friends and visit the independent Jewish state of Israel,” Biden begins.
He notes that he first visited Israel as a young senator from Delaware in 1973, shortly before the Yom Kippur War, doing so before any US president.
He then reiterates his favorite piece of trivia about Israel — that he has met every prime minister since Golda Meir. In that first meeting he also met then a young Yitzhak Rabin, which he calls a “privilege.”
“I’ll say again, you need not be a Jew to be a Zionist,” Biden declares.
“The connection between the Israeli people and the American people is bone deep,” he says, adding that it has gotten stronger with each generation and that his administration has taken the bilateral relationship to new heights.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomes US President Joe Biden to Israel at Ben Gurion Airport, calling him “a great Zionist and one of the best friends Israel has ever known.”
Standing on a custom-made stage on the tarmac, Lapid says the trip is “both a historic visit, and a deeply personal one.”
“It is historic because it expresses the unbreakable bond between our two countries,” Lapid continues. “Our commitment to shared values: democracy, freedom, and the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own.”
Lapid says that the visit, Biden’s first as president and 10th as a politician, is personal “because your relationship with Israel has always been personal.”
The prime minister stresses that Israel has changed in the six years since Biden’s last visit, pointing at the country’s high-tech sector, agricultural innovation and groundbreaking research universities.
Turning to national security, Lapid says that the two leaders will “discuss building a new security and economy architecture with the nations of the Middle East, following the Abraham Accords and the achievements of the Negev Summit.”
They will also discuss “the need to renew a strong global coalition that will stop the Iranian nuclear program,” Lapid says.
“Right now, we are simply happy to see you, Mr. President,” he concludes. “The simple, genuine joy brought by seeing a good friend once again.”
President Isaac Herzog adopts a decidedly biblical approach to his speech welcoming US President Joe Biden to Israel, saying “like the biblical Joseph, you are both a visionary and a leader.”
“The people of Israel welcome you to the holy land with open arms and joyous hearts, as Joseph son of Jacob who sought out his brothers,” says Herzog.
Herzog calls his American counterpart “a true friend, and staunch supporter of Israel and the Jewish people, of our security and wellbeing, your entire life.”
He adds that the visit will deal with the threats emanating from Iran that endanger the region.
The president stresses the values the two countries share — democracy, justice, and freedom, tolerance, security, and peace.
“The State of Israel in which you just arrived, is a successful, innovative nation, which contributes to tikkun olam, to healing the world—through science and medicine, water and food technology, climate innovation and so much more,” he says.
Hinting strongly at the expected announcements in the coming days around growing ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Herzog calls the trip Biden’s “journey of peace from Israel to Saudi Arabia, from the Holy Land to the Hejaz.”
US President Joe Biden deplanes from Air Force One and is greeted by Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog.
Biden is followed off Air Force One by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, each of whom are greeted by parallel lines of Israel’s leadership.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks with his US counterpart, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel.
Gantz updates Austin on a briefing he will give to Biden after he lands, his office says.
The two also spoke on “strengthening additional elements in the regional cooperation,” according to a statement.
“The defense minister wished to convey to the secretary of defense a special thank you for his personal contribution to the advancement of security cooperation between the countries led by the Pentagon,” the statement adds.
The potential military pact between Israel and its Arab allies, which Gantz has dubbed “MEAD — Middle East Air Defense,” is meant to connect regional air defense systems to combat Iran’s increasing use of drones and missiles in the Middle East.
US President Joe Biden has landed at Ben Gurion Airport, kicking off a four-day visit to the Middle East, his first to the region as president.
The welcome ceremony has commenced with the military band playing.
Biden will be greeted by Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog.
Biden and Lapid will provide brief remarks to the press.
Also spotted in attendance is former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke recently on the phone with the family of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tells reporters in a press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to Israel.
Blinken invited the family to come to Washington to meet directly with administration officials in order to further discuss her killing, Sullivan says.
The US put out a statement earlier this month that said Israel did not intentionally kill Abu Akleh, even though it was likely responsible. Sullivan says the administration still seeks accountability in the Al Jazeera reporter’s death.
Sullivan also tells reporters aboard the flight that the Biden administration is “heartened” by the recent phone call between Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The call was the first in years between Israeli and Palestinian leaders after Lapid’s predecessor, Naftali Bennett, refused to engage with the PA president and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu did the same for much of his tenure.
Sullivan expresses hope that the recent call will lead to more cooperation between the sides on a path toward a two-state solution. He tells reporters that while Biden is hopeful for Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, “he won’t be making formal proposals for the launch of some sort of peace initiative.”
Asked about the potential of reopening the Jerusalem consulate that served Palestinians, Sullivan says that it is the US position “that we would like a consulate in East Jerusalem, obviously that requires engagement with the Israeli government, that requires engagement with the Palestinian leadership as well, and we will continue that engagement on this trip.”
A 3.1 magnitude earthquake is registered in northern Israel, several kilometers from Hatzor Haglilit, a town not far from Safed.
The IDF Home Front Command says that the earthquake warning siren was not sounded because the quake did not pose a danger to Israeli citizens.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion says he is glad that US President Joe Biden will be visiting the eastern part of the capital during his visit, but that he wanted to join him.
“I’m very happy that Biden is visiting both the west and east of the city,” Lion tells Army Radio. “It’s his full right to hold a private visit, although I have to say that I really wanted to join him.”
The Times of Israel previously reported that the US was not allowing any Israeli officials to join Biden during his time in East Jerusalem, which many Palestinians view as the future capital of a Palestinian state. On Friday Biden is scheduled to visit the Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives and announce US funding for East Jerusalem hospitals.
“It’s sad that the US has to fund hospitals in the east of the city, because that’s the job of the state [of Israel],” Lion tells Kan radio. “I would expect the Health Ministry to give more support to these hospitals.”
Iran says that US President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East will not bring about security for Israel.
“If the visits of the American officials to the countries of the region are to strengthen the position of the Zionist regime and to normalize the relations of this regime with some countries, their efforts will not create security for the Zionists in any way,” President Ebrahim Raisi says in a statement, referring to Israel.
Biden is slated to land in Israel this afternoon, followed by a direct flight to Saudi Arabia on Friday, amid hopes that the visit will pave the way to establishing relations between the Jewish state and the Gulf kingdom.
Iran has repeatedly criticized the normalization of ties between Gulf Arab states and Israel, calling it “a stab in the back” to the Palestinians.
Raisi emphasizes that the Islamic Republic is closely monitoring “all of the developments” in the region.
“We have repeatedly told those who have brought messages from the Americans that if the slightest move is made against Iran’s territorial integrity, it will be met with our decisive response,” he adds.
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