The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
‘We’ll act as we see fit’: National security adviser says Israel not afraid to differ with US on Iran
In a rare interview, National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata says Israel isn’t hesitating to air differences of opinion regarding how to counter the Iranian threat.
After meeting US President Joe Biden today in Jerusalem, Hulata tells Channel 13: “President Biden has said the whole time that he prefers a diplomatic solution, but that in the absence of other solutions, he will use military force against Iran. I’ve heard the US president say this, and one of his famous sayings is that ‘powers don’t bluff’ — so this should be taken seriously.”
“We aren’t afraid to tell the Americans that we think differently, or to even act in Iran,” he adds. “Israel will act as it sees fit. We’ve acted quite a lot in Iran over the past year, and the US is backing us. We are acting with logic and responsibility, ad everyone can see this isn’t harming the relationship between the US president and Israel — on the contrary.”
Regarding Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia tomorrow, Hulata says: “We have been working for months on strengthening Israel’s relations with countries in the region, and Saudi Arabia is no doubt the most important in the region with which Israel can have a peaceful relation, and we are working on it.”
However, he cautions that patience is needed and says the results of these efforts will have to be judged in several months.
Asked about the recent decision by the Hamas terror organization to release a video showing Hisham al-Sayed, one of two Israeli civilians being held captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of two IDF soldiers, Hulata says: “Something has definitely shifted. Hamas chooses, out of its considerations, to release a video in which one of the civilians is seen alive, and we get a sign of life.
“I view this as a signal by Hamas, and my responsibility on that front is to get the most out of this.”
President Isaac Herzog welcomes the participants of the 21st Maccabiah Games at the opening ceremony in Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium.
“Dear athletes, Jewish sisters and brothers from all over the world, welcome to the 21st Maccabiah Games,” Herzog says. “Welcome to Israel, your home away from home. We welcome your beloved families and friends who cheered you on and supported you.”
Thanking US President Joe Biden, who spoke before him, Herzog calls the opening of the “Jewish Olympics” a “day of celebration for the State of Israel and the whole Jewish People, a special moment of togetherness. A moment that embodies the shared values in which we believe: Zionism and excellence, faith and hope, solidarity and coming closer together.”
“You have come here from dozens of countries but you represent one single, special people: the Jewish People, the People of Israel,” he adds. “Dear athletes, the citizens of Israel are thrilled to see you all here, strong in body and mighty in spirit. Our land is your land. Our home is your home. My wish for you: win loads of medals, and smash loads of records. Good luck!”
US President Joe Biden, during his visit to Jeddah this weekend, will announce the successful brokering of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Egypt that will see Riyadh take steps toward normalization with Israel, a Middle Eastern diplomat confirms to The Times of Israel.
The normalization measures will include Saudi Arabia opening its airspace to Israeli flights to the Far East in addition to rolling out direct flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia for Muslim pilgrims, the diplomat says, confirming reporting in the Axios news site.
The US has been seeking to finalize the transfer of the Tiran and Sanafir Red Sea islands from Cairo to Riyadh in time for Biden’s visit to Jeddah, where he will participate in the GCC+3 summit and hold a bilateral meeting with Saudi officials.
Israel handed over control of the two islands to Egypt as part of their 1979 peace agreement, but the sides agreed to demilitarize the islands and to allow the presence of a multinational observer force to remain. Israel had been seeking similar assurances from Saudi Arabia in order to sign off on the deal, but Riyadh has been hesitant to put the commitment in writing, the diplomat said last week. The deal is also legally complex because the countries do not maintain official ties and therefore are working through conduits.
While the observer force will be transferred to another location, Saudi Arabia has committed to ensuring Israel’s freedom of transport around the islands, the diplomat says.
At a press conference with Prime Minister Yair Lapid earlier today, Biden said he was “optimistic” about the prospects of being able to announce Saudi overflights when he arrives in Jeddah tomorrow.
Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, describes Joe Biden’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia as “heartbreaking,” accusing the US president of backing down from his pledge of prioritizing human rights.
In an interview with The Associated Press in Istanbul a day before Biden travels to Saudi Arabia to meet with the crown prince, Cengiz says Biden should press Saudi Arabia — a country that she describes as a “terrible ally” — to embrace a human rights agenda. She also wants Biden to seek more answers from Saudi authorities over what happened to Khashoggi’s remains.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has long denied any knowledge or involvement in Khashoggi’s killing, which was carried out inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by agents who worked for the young heir to the throne. A US intelligence report that Biden declassified after coming to office said Khashoggi’s killing could not have happened without Prince Mohammed’s knowledge.
Cengiz had gone with Khashoggi to the Saudi Consulate for an appointment to pick up documents needed to marry her. While she waited outside, he went in — and never reappeared.
“That day destroyed my life. And I don’t want to remember any part of that day,” Cengiz says, recalling that they had planned to choose new furniture for their home after his consulate visit and meet with friends.
Biden said during his campaign that he believes Khashoggi was killed on orders of Prince Mohammed, describing the kingdom as a “pariah” and stating “there’s very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia.”
“It’s a very huge backing down,” Cengiz says of Biden’s decision now to reset diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia. “It’s heartbreaking and disappointing. And Biden will lose his moral authority by putting oil and expediency over principles and values.”
“One of Biden’s promises (was) being different. It was a very big hope to me to believe, again, that Biden will do something for me and for Jamal,” she says. “Instead of being different now, he’s doing the same and embracing dictators in the region right now. So it’s very disappointing for me.”
“He has to ask what happened to his body? Where is his body? Still we do not have any answer,” she adds. “And people need to get the truth in this case. And we cannot forget.”
“We cannot forget what happened to Jamal.”
Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella refuses to accept Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s resignation, in a political crisis that experts have warned could send the eurozone’s third largest economy to snap elections.
Mattarella “did not accept the resignation, and invited the prime minister to appear before parliament to make a statement,” the presidential palace says, amid reports Draghi will address parliament next week to see if he has the necessary majority to stay on.
Saudi Arabia rejected repeated requests from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to visit the kingdom before US President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia, according to an unsourced Channel 12 report.
Abbas reportedly asked the Saudis several times to come and visit before Biden’s trip and was refused. Finally, a few days ago, he was granted a short phone conversation with Riyadh’s King Salman, but still no visit.
This comes against the background of reports that Saudi Arabia will take steps toward warming ties with Israel, despite constant Palestinian appeals to regional states not to warm relations with Israel in the absence of substantive progress toward Palestinian statehood.
Channel 12 also reports that Iran is stepping up pressure on Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustapha Al-Kadhimi, the ninth participant at Biden’s planned meeting with Arab leaders, trying to convince him not to attend.
The office of Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan announces that he will not be running in the upcoming Likud primaries and will remain in his post until the end of his three-year term, in August 2023.
The veteran MK and minister has expressed interest in one day leading Likud, but is joining several other party lawmakers in holding off on such plans until after Benjamin Netanyahu relinquishes the top spot.
Erdan “will continue… to harness his experience and capabilities to defend the State of Israel and its positions in the international arena,” his office says.
US President Joe Biden has left Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium after welcoming the American delegation to the Maccabiah.
Shane Carr, one of the heads of the American delegation, says Biden spoke to about 200 members of the American team for around 10 minutes and even sang happy birthday to one of the delegates.
“He said, ‘I’m so damn proud of you,’ and he talked about trying to be a walk-on football player at Syracuse University, but he failed,” Carr says. “He also talked about how much he loves Israel and told us ‘what you do matters.’”
“It’s amazing because now we’ve been recognized as what we always knew this was, which is a great international sporting competition,” says Wasley Kaling, a 37-year-old water polo player on the American team.
“I get goosebumps just thinking about it, him being here is a validation of ‘this is a really big deal.’ Having foreign leaders come here for this is unbelievable.”
US President Joe Biden speaks with the American delegation to the Maccabiah delegation, eliciting big smiles from the athletes.
“What you’ve done is you’ve demonstrated to the world that you can do anything, and I’m so damn proud,” Biden tells the athletes, to their cheers. “You think I’m kidding you, but I’m not.
“I’ll be real brief. When I got out of high school I played college ball. In the NFL, there’s a program — they invite 50 people to walk on to see if they can make it. I asked a good friend of mine who went to Syracuse, [Pro Football Hall of Fame running back] Floyd Little” to ask his agent “if I could walk on. Seriously. True story. He came back to me and said Joe, he might be able to get you a chance to walk on, but he’s afraid you might have to be carried off.”
Biden puts on a USA cap and says: “Go get ’em, folks. Think of the message you’re sending around the world in terms of unity.”
He also says: “I’m here in Israel because I’m such an incredible supporter of Israel.”
Israel has reportedly concluded that the United States won’t toughen its stance on Iran, with the Jewish state accelerating its own preparations to act if needed.
According to a report by Channel 12 news, citing unnamed security sources, Israel has “failed to shift American positions regarding the Iran deal,” which has created “frustration” in Jerusalem.
The report says Israel tried to bring the Americans to take more forceful positions and raise the pressure on Tehran, but the understanding is that the Americans differ on how to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.
Israel is now trying to push the Americans to an “alternative plan,” the report says, a likely reference to a potential military operation. If the Americans won’t agree to participate, Israel will have to prepare that option on its own, according to the report.
The network also says that in the past two days, the security establishment has been identifying movements by Iranians and Iranian affiliates in the Middle East who are allegedly preparing for “provocations” against Israeli or American interests in the Middle East, in response to US President Joe Biden’s visit and in an attempt to raise the pressure on the US administration.
Israel has reportedly given final approval to an outline that could pave the way for significant progress on Israeli-Saudi normalization during US President Joe Biden’s weekend visit to the Gulf kingdom.
According to Walla, citing two unnamed senior Israeli officials, Jerusalem has given a green light for Washington to move forward on a deal transferring two strategic islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.
A US official declines to provide an update, saying they will do so when there is something to announce.
Washington is in the midst of brokering talks to transfer a pair of Red Sea islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia in a deal that would see Riyadh take small steps toward formal diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, a Middle East diplomat told The Times of Israel last week.
Israel handed over control of the islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Egypt as part of their 1979 peace agreement, but the sides agreed to demilitarize the islands and to allow the presence of a multinational observer force. Israel is now seeking similar assurances from Saudi Arabia in order to sign off on the deal, but Riyadh has been hesitant to put the commitment in writing, the Middle East diplomat said.
If inked, the agreement would see Saudi Arabia allow Israeli flights to the Far East to use its airspace in addition to rolling out direct flights between the two countries for Muslim pilgrims to Mecca and Medina, the diplomat said.
The White House hopes to finalize the agreement in time for Biden’s arrival in Jeddah tomorrow. On Tuesday, the diplomat put the likelihood of that happening at 50%.
The opening ceremony of the 21st Maccabiah Games is underway at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium.
US President Joe Biden has arrived and will speak at the event, as will President Isaac Herzog.
However, the event is hit by a partial power outage, which according to some Hebrew media reports could end up preventing the ceremony from going ahead.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi says he will resign amid a political crisis sparked by the refusal of the Five Star Movement to participate in a government confidence vote.
“I want to announce that this evening I will hand in my resignation to the president,” Draghi tells his cabinet.
He says the conditions necessary to carry on with the coalition government are “no longer there” and the “pact of trust that the government is based on has gone.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz hails the attorney general’s decision to allow him to continue the process of nominating the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, even during election season.
Gantz tweets that he “welcomes the responsible decision” and adds that he will “continue to conduct the process in an orderly, dignified manner, free of any political considerations, and in consultation with all relevant officials.”
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara tells Defense Minister Benny Gantz he can nominate the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff despite it being an election season.
Caretaker governments traditionally shy away from making nominations for senior positions such as chief of police or the military.
But in a statement, Baharav-Miara says she has found that a classified dossier along with a legal opinion provided by the Defense Ministry are sufficient to allow the process of nominating the next chief of staff to continue before the election, even though it involves “significant legal difficulties.”
“There are exceptional circumstances of necessity and urgency to appoint a chief of staff who will take office in January 2023,” Baharav-Miara’s statement says.
She says she examined the Defense Ministry’s legal opinion with “all relevant” officials at the Attorney General’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office.
The candidates named by Gantz last month are Eyal Zamir, a former IDF deputy chief of staff currently serving as a research fellow at a think tank in Washington; Herzi Halevi, the current deputy chief of staff; and Yoel Strick, a former commander of the military’s Ground Forces, also serving as a research fellow at another think tank in Washington.
During their one-on-one meeting, US President Joe Biden told President Isaac Herzog that he is always available to receive phone calls from the Israeli leader, and invited Herzog to visit the White House, according to Herzog’s office.
Herzog brought up the issue of Israelis being held captive by the Hamas terror group in Gaza. He also laid out some of his ideas on climate change that have come out of the president’s climate forum.
The two men also spoke about their personal connections to Ireland and about family members they have both met.
A US Jewish advocacy group is calling on Iceland’s government to take action against a widely denounced pro-Palestinian website seeking to “dismantle” various Boston-area Jewish institutions, a website that is being hosted by an Icelandic internet company.
The Anti-Defamation League, in a letter to Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, says it has already voiced its concerns about the “Mapping Project” to Iceland’s ambassador to the US and its national police, but hasn’t received a “substantive response.”
The website features an interactive map of Massachusetts listing nearly 500 institutions — many of them Jewish — and accusing them of complicity in a range of “harms,” including ethnic cleansing, colonialism and Zionism.
It is hosted by the 1984 Hosting Co., of Reykjavík.
“We deeply regret the apparent lackadaisical attitude of Icelandic officials toward this threat to the Jewish community and ask that your government take expeditious measures to prevent this website from being hosted in your country,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, writes in the letter.
The Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs doesn’t immediately comment. A request for comment has been left with the 1984 Hosting Co.
The company has previously said it doesn’t “host those who advocate violence, terror, suppression or hatred” but has declined to address the Jewish community’s concerns.
Biden calls presidential medal ‘one of greatest honors of my career,’ says seeing Israel thrive ‘is close to miraculous’
Giving a very warm speech after President Isaac Herzog in which he quotes Irish poetry and the Torah, US President Joe Biden says receiving the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor is “one of the greatest honors of my career.”
“You know that my love for Israel is deep-rooted,” begins Biden, referring to his “righteous Christian” father.
“I’ve had the honor — it’s hard to say these words, for over 50 years, it can’t be that long — but for over 50 years in the federal government, helping build the relationship.”
Fifty years ago, he says, there would never have been the kind of audience he’s now speaking to — “so many people representing so many nations and faiths.”
“Israel and the United States are both places built on hope, grit and determination,” Biden says.
He continues: “Seeing Israel thrive, seeing the wildest dreams of Israel’s founding fathers and mothers grow into a reality that Israel’s children enjoy today, to me is close to miraculous.”
“Every time I’ve come over the years, thank God, God seems to be holding us in the palm of His hand,” he says quoting a hymn. “Because we get stronger, not weaker, and to me it’s pretty miraculous.
Biden quotes from the Torah portion of Balak, which he notes will be read in the Diaspora this Shabbat, regarding Israel as “the people that dwell alone,” but goes on to say, “As I look out at these proud, strong Israelis in the audience, at the nation that made the desert bloom and built the Iron Dome, I see people who are growing more secure, more integrated, more confident and have greater relations with their neighbors. A nation that has forged peace before and can do it again. And a nation that will never dwell alone, because as long as there’s the United States you will never be alone.”
Regarding the presidential honor, Biden declares: “As a leader I can say without hesitation that receiving this award today is one of the greatest honors of my career, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
“In one of the most dysfunctional.. regions of the world, [Israel] will again be fully integrated and one of the leaders,” he concludes.
Speaking beside US President Joe Biden at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, President Isaac Herzog says that the US and Israel “are united in our opposition to Iran’s terror and drive for a nuclear weapons capability, which is the greatest threat to this region, and perhaps the world at large.”
Herzog paints a picture of a “challenged world order,” with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He emphasizes that strong Israel-US relations are critical to regional and global stability, peace and prosperity.
“Together, we can create not only a new Middle East, but a renewable Middle East — a regional ecosystem of sustainable peace,” says Herzog.
“Under your leadership, we can continue transforming our region from a source of global tension to a source of global stability and progress. The Middle East can grow into a meeting point for climate innovation and combined medical research, clean energy and peaceful exchange among faiths and peoples. This is the blessing you will bring in the coming days to your meetings in Riyadh.”
Herzog also praises Biden’s firm stance against antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel.
The president concludes by revealing that in their one-on-one meeting, he gave Biden the minutes of the latter’s meeting with former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir almost 50 years ago, found in Israel’s national archives.
“The senator was full of respect and admiration for the prime minister and repeatedly said that he had come to learn, but, on the other hand was carried away by his enthusiasm,” wrote the diplomat who took the minutes.
“Your tireless advocacy of the enduring US-Israel partnership, in word and in deed, has truly withstood the test of time,” says Herzog.
Opposition leader and former PM Benjamin Netanyahu emerges from his meeting with Biden.
He says it was a “warm, excellent meeting,” and stresses their deep friendship and Biden’s “truly unwavering” commitment to Israel.
He notes Biden’s role in securing supplementary funding for Iron Dome and says Biden “supported us in many areas over the years.”
“We’ve been friends for 40 years,” he says, “but to ensure the next 40 years, we must deal with the Iranian threat.”
Sanctions and defensive military preparations are not enough, he says. “There must be a credible offensive military option.”
Adds Netanyahu: “I told him the [JCPOA] deal is lousy. He knows my position… I told him that with no credible military option, Iran won’t be stopped. If Iran isn’t deterred, that military option has to be used.”
“That’s my position, that’s my commitment, and I greatly hope that that is the American position.
“He said he agreed, and I was pleased to hear it.”
In any case, concludes Netanyahu, “that’s what I will do if and when I return to the Prime Minister’s Office.”
US President Joe Biden concludes his meeting with President Isaac Herzog.
Biden then meets with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris next week focusing on the “peace process” and elections, the PA’s foreign ministry says.
Abbas, who is due to meet Macron on July 20, will also discuss “putting pressure on Israel to provide the appropriate atmosphere for holding the Palestinian elections, specifically in the city of Jerusalem,” a statement reads.
Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have not been held since 2014.
Palestinian elections scheduled for last year were canceled, with Abbas citing Israel’s refusal to allow them to take place in the annexed East Jerusalem.
The announcement comes after PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki met his French counterpart Catherine Colonna.
Last week, Prime Minister Yair Lapid headed to Paris for his first foreign trip as leader to meet Macron, who said there was “no alternative to a resumption of political dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
Abbas is scheduled to meet tomorrow with US President Joe Biden in Bethlehem in the West Bank.
“Bougie, my friend, thank you for all you and your family have done to deepen the ironclad bond between our two great countries,” write US President Joe Biden in the President’s Residence guestbook before his private meeting with President Isaac Herzog, using the latter’s nickname.
“From our shared Irish roots to our shared love of Israel, we are united in heart and spirit. May our friendship endure and continue to grow! That is the Irish of it, as my grandfather Finnegan would say. God bless you. Joe. 7.14.22”
Iran warns the United States and its allies against undermining regional security after US President Joe Biden signed a security pact with Israel today during a visit to the Jewish state.
“I tell the Americans and their regional allies that the Iranian nation will not accept any crisis or insecurity in the region, and that any mistake made in this region will be met with a harsh and regrettable response,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi says in televised remarks.
The Biden administration’s antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt will depart tomorrow for her second foreign trip to Argentina and Chile, the US State Department announces.
“During her visits, Ambassador Lipstadt will engage with local Jewish communities, government officials, and civil society representatives on actionable strategies and opportunities to counter antisemitism, which is fundamental to advancing human rights,” the US readout says.
In Argentina, Lipstadt will participate in events commemorating the anniversary of Buenos Aires’s AMIA Jewish community center bombing in 1994, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.
Last week, Lipstadt returned from her first foreign trip during which she made stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the UAE for meetings with government officials and civil society leaders.
US President Joe Biden arrives at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, where he is greeted on the red carpet by President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal, the first lady.
They then speak with Israeli schoolchildren dressed in white, whose arms start to tire as they wave Israeli and US flags.
Entering the residence, Biden places his arm around Herzog before he signs the guestbook on a desk inlaid with mother-of-pearl that once belonged to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.
Biden then stresses their shared Irish connections, saying that Herzog’s grandfather, Chief Rabbi of Ireland Isaac HaLevi Herzog, was known as the “Sinn Fein Rabbi.”
Herzog quotes former US president Ronald Reagan, who said when meeting former president Chaim Herzog — the current president’s father — “It’s a great day for the Irish.”
US President Joe Biden’s large motorcade heads out toward the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, where he will meet President Isaac Herzog.
After that, Biden is set to sit down with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
As US President Joe Biden visits the region, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group mocks the 79-year-old over his age.
“The America of today is not the America of 2003-2006,” Hassan Nasrallah says in a speech. “The elderly American president — you can see how old he is — how he walks how he moves.
“The elderly American president reflects the situation of America — it is starting to get old — or maybe is already old. The global standing of America is already not what it was.”
An all-clear is given in the settlement of Beit Horon after alarms sounded following a suspected infiltration.
A Jewish Israeli man apparently climbed over the settlement’s security fence, according to Hebrew-language media reports, indicating the incident was not a potential terror attack.
The niece of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh says US President Joe Biden should meet with her family, which seeks to hold Israel accountable for her death.
“We want him to hear personally our demands, our concerns and our calls for accountability and justice,” Lina Abu Akleh tells CBS Mornings.
Abu Akleh’s family has sharply criticized a uS State Department investigation that concluded that Israeli gunfire was likely responsible for the journalist’s death in the West Bank but that there is no reason to believe the gunfire was intentional.
Abu Akleh was killed while covering an Israeli military arrest operation in the Jenin refugee camp. She was wearing a blue bulletproof vest that identified her as a member of the media.
“We aren’t only seeking accountability for the soldier that killed Shireen, but the entire chain of command who gave the order,” her niece says.
An alert of a suspected infiltration is sounding in the West Bank settlement of Beit Horon, on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
The Israel Defense Forces says it is looking into the incident.
The IDF’s Home Front Command has instructed residents to remain locked in their homes until further notice.
Users from Israel and around the world have been reporting being unable to access Twitter.
The massive social network is briefly offline in a major outage, before returning to work normally.
Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Gaza terror group Hamas’s politburo, comments on US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East, saying Washington’s efforts to integrate Israel into the region will “fail.”
“The attempts by the American administration to reorganize the region by integrating [Israel] in it and creating alliances between it and Arab governments will fail, because the stance of those countries is opposition to those alliances,” Haniyeh says, according to Hebrew media.
“The Palestinian people will never again fall for the illusions of negotiation, which harmed the Palestinian issue. Our choice is to continue with resistance until the occupation is over.”
Lapid to ToI’s Schneider on problems with Israel-Saudi defense ties: ‘Can’t go into details, working on regional security architecture’
Times of Israel’s Tal Schneider asks the leaders about stalled progress toward Israel’s inclusion in the US Visa Waiver program, and whether Israel’s opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu will be asked to help on this (since the opposition has blocked some legislation on the issue).
She also asks about reported Saudi reservations regarding regional defense cooperation — leaving a situation in which Israel is mainly sharing its intel.
Biden: “We are working very, very, very hard to eliminate the lack of precision in the applications, many times, for the visa program. It is my hope and expectation that in the next several months we’ll have it worked out.”
Lapid: “We urge the Israeli opposition to be more responsible and help with the legislation needed to finalize this.”
As regards regional defense cooperation, Lapid says: “It is no secret that we are doing our best with our American friends to work on the regional security architecture. So this was not secret. The details of this apparently are. So I’m not going to go into details on this. But we are working with everybody we can in order to promote regional security, especially facing Iran’s regime and its terror policy.”
US President Joe Biden publicly disagrees with Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s insistence that diplomacy won’t stop Iran’s nuclear program.
“I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way,” he says.
At the same time, Biden says that there is “an ironclad commitment from the United States of America to Israel’s security.”
“We’ll make sure Israel can defend itself, by itself.”
(Video of the press conference is here:)
Biden says his visit has caused his “deep love and respect for Israel” to take a deeper hold in his heart.
Biden stresses that the US will “continue to work for a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
He says that “Israel must remain an independent, democratic Jewish state.”
“The best way to achieve that remains a two-state solution for two peoples, both of whom have deep and ancient roots in this land.”
Anything that takes the sides further from that is “detrimental to the long-term security of Israel.”
Biden says in response to a question that the US is working “very, very hard” to get Israel on the Visa Waiver Program.
Biden says that he will carry a message of peace to the Gulf from Israel.
The president says that Israel and the US will cooperate on high-energy laser missile defense systems.
Russia’s war in Ukraine “must be a strategic failure,” says Biden, “and the free world must sustain our resolve to help Ukraine defend its democracy.”
“The US will continue to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”
Words and diplomacy will not stop Iran from achieving nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Yair Lapid says during his press conference with US President Joe Biden at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, after the two leaders sign the Jerusalem Declaration.
“The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program the free world will use force. The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table,” he says.
“It should not be a bluff, but the real thing,” Lapid continues. “The Iranian regime must know that if they continue to deceive the world, they will pay a heavy price.”
“The fact that I am standing here today did not happen by itself,” says Lapid. “We learned the lesson, Mr. President. At all times, Israel must be strong, free and safe, with a powerful army that can defend our citizens.”
Referencing the biblical Joshua and Martin Luther King, Lapid says, “The principle is the same: If you want your independence, your hands must defend you, and your legs must pray for you. You must march fearlessly towards the river.”
Lapid also asks Biden to send a message to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Iraq: “Our hand is outstretched for peace. We are ready to share our technology and experience, ready for our people to meet and learn about one another, ready for our scientists to collaborate and our businesses to cooperate.”
“We send with you, to all the nations of the region, including of course the Palestinians, a message of peace.”
He also calls Biden’s flight to Saudi Arabia from Israel “important for Israel and for the region. For our security and for the future prosperity of the Middle East.”
The prime minister points at “Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” terrorism, and the Iranian nuclear threat as reminders that “in order to protect freedom, sometimes force must be used.”
Lapid draws a parallel between the 9/11 terror attacks and Hamas rocket fire on Sderot, painting them as attacks on democracy that instill fear in terrorists and their supporters.
“What scares them the most is that their citizens, their people, can see us. They can see our quality of life. The dynamism and creativity of our economy. The rights of women and the LGBTQ community. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”
“It’s what makes the Iranian regime develop its nuclear program, Hezbollah aim its missiles at us and terrorist organizations worldwide send suicide bombers,” he continues. “They want to destroy the only Jewish state in the world. We will never let that happen.”
Lapid finishes by thanking Biden for America’s friendship and commitment to Israel, calling it “one of the cornerstones of Israel’s national security.”
“Throughout all your years in public service, you were one of the chief architects of this relationship, for that you have the everlasting gratitude of the people of Zion.”
Asked by a reporter whether he still supports the concept of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, Lapid says: “A two-state solution is a guarantee for a strong democratic Israel with a Jewish majority.”
However, he ignores a second question regarding whether he’ll advance the issue if he is elected prime minister in the November election.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid stresses the shared challenges the four countries in the I2U2 online summit face during the first virtual meeting of the leaders of Israel, India, the US and the UAE.
“We need to think in new terms when it comes to energy, food security, water tech, defense and trade,” he says. “In the 21st century, challenges are local but solutions are global.”
He focuses on food insecurity in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war, calling the emerging food corridor between India and the UAE “a clear example of a solution to a problem we are all facing.”
He also says the global energy market is facing a serious crisis that has “political implications.”
“The world is watching this meeting,” says Lapid. “That shows that something special is happening.”
Lapid says the forum is designed to “put together brain power, resources, and knowledge at the same table.”
Speaking after Lapid, US President Joe Biden says the meeting is “about demonstrating the importance of showing the practical impacts” of Israel’s growing integration.
“Our challenge together is to deliver real results that people can feel in their everyday lives,” Biden continues.
“We can do a great deal if we stick together,” the president concludes, stressing that he intends to stay engaged.
The leaders announce a pair of massive collaborative projects in the fields of food security and clean energy.
The four countries would aim to “harness the vibrancy of our societies and entrepreneurial spirit to tackle some of the greatest challenges confronting our world, with a particular focus on joint investments and new initiatives in water, energy, transportation, space, health and food security.”
The I2U2 countries also will utilize their respective private sectors to advance low carbon development pathways, improve public health and access to vaccines, jointly create new solutions for waste treatment, and promote the development of green technologies.
The full text of the Jerusalem US-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration is released, signed by US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
As expected, the declaration reaffirms “the unbreakable bonds between our two countries and the enduring commitment of the United States to Israel’s security.”
The American side also “reiterates its steadfast commitment to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter its enemies and to defend itself by itself against any threat or combination of threats. The United States further reiterates that these commitments are bipartisan and sacrosanct, and that they are not only moral commitments, but also strategic commitments that are vitally important to the national security of the United States itself.”
The statement includes a firm US pledges to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and underscores that Washington is prepared to “use all elements of its national power” to ensure that Tehran is kept from the bomb.
The declaration contains a US commitment to fully implement the terms of the historic $38 billion memorandum of understanding, and a recognition that a follow-on MOU should reflect new threats and circumstances. According to the Jerusalem Declaration, Washington will seek additional missile defense funding beyond the MOU.
On the Abraham Accords, the statement affirms the importance of the agreements, and of the Negev Forum that was initiated in Manama in June.
The two countries found common language on the Russia-Ukraine war, where Israel has been far less strident than the US in its condemnations of Moscow. Israel has also declined to join Western sanctions against Russia.
“The United States and Israel reiterate their concerns regarding the ongoing attacks against Ukraine, their commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and affirmed the importance of continued humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine,” reads the declaration.
Some cracks in the unity are evident on the Palestinian issue. The two countries commit to continue discussions on Israel-Palestinian ties, and condemn Hamas and recent terrorist attacks.
Notably, only Biden “affirms his longstanding and consistent support of a two-state solution and for advancing toward a reality in which Israelis and Palestinians alike can enjoy equal measures of security, freedom and prosperity.”
“The United States stands ready to work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and regional stakeholders toward that goal.”
Still, both sides commit to strengthening the Palestinian economy and improving the quality of life of Palestinians.
On Israel’s seemingly stalled attempts to join the US Visa Waiver Program, both sides agree to accelerate attempts to complete the process.
The statement also includes a firm denunciation of BDS campaigns and efforts to unfairly single out Israel in the United Nations or the International Criminal Court.
“The two countries will use the tools at their disposal to fight every scourge and source of antisemitism and to respond whenever legitimate criticism crosses over into bigotry and hatred or attempts to undermine Israel’s rightful and legitimate place among the family of nations,” the statement says.
Images emerge from the final preparations at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, where President Isaac Herzog will host US President Joe Biden later this afternoon.
Herzog will present Biden with Israel’s Presidential Medal of Honor during a festive ceremony.
During their Jerusalem meeting, US President Joe Biden tells Prime Minister Yair Lapid that Washington does not want to be surprised by any Israeli announcements about building settlements.
Biden tells Lapid that while he won’t press him too hard on matters relating to the Palestinian conflict, he did not want there to be unexpected announcements.
During an official visit to Israel by Biden in 2010, while serving as US vice president, the Interior Ministry announced that 1,600 housing units would be built in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
Biden fumed at the time, saying in a statement that it “undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”
The construction project, which later gained the epithet “the Biden Plan,” was eventually put on hold, although anti-settlement groups claimed that paperwork for the plan was continually advanced in the following years.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid stresses to US President Joe Biden that Iran will not agree to a stronger nuclear deal without a credible military threat, and says that at some point the procrastination in the talks with Tehran must end.
Lapid tells Biden that he believes Tehran is playing for time and the US must impose serious sanctions on Tehran to get the Iranians to return to the negotiating table.
In a wider meeting with the respective staffs of the two leaders, Ukraine is discussed with a focus on the global food crisis.
Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is not present at the wider meeting.
Russian missiles strike the city of Vinnytsia, killing 12 people and wounding 25 more in what Ukraine’s president calls “an open act of terrorism” on the country’s civilian population in areas with no military value.
Ukraine’s national police say three missiles hit an office building and damaged nearby residential buildings in the city located southwest of the capital Kyiv. The missile strike ignited a fire that expanded to engulf 50 cars in an adjacent parking lot.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says a child was among the dead. He suggests the attack was deliberately aimed at terrorizing civilians.
“Every day Russia is destroying the civilian population, killing Ukrainian children, directing missiles at civilian objects. Where there is no military (targets). What is it if not an open act of terrorism?” Zelenskyy writes on the Telegram messaging app.
The Vinnytsia strike came after Ukraine’s presidential office reported the deaths of five civilians and the wounding of another eight in Russian attacks over the past day.
The leaders of Israel, India, the United States and the United Arab Emirates announce a pair of massive collaborative projects in the fields of food security and clean energy as they meet virtually during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Jerusalem.
Biden, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi make the announcement in a joint statement their offices issued during their virtual meeting — the highest level gathering to date of the new, US-formulated I2U2 forum.
The joint statement says the four countries would aim to “harness the vibrancy of our societies and entrepreneurial spirit to tackle some of the greatest challenges confronting our world, with a particular focus on joint investments and new initiatives in water, energy, transportation, space, health and food security.”
The I2U2 countries also will utilize their respective private sectors to advance low carbon development pathways, improve public health and access to vaccines, jointly create new solutions for waste treatment, and promote the development of green technologies, the communique says.
The countries stress their support for Israel’s integration in the region, drawing a connection between the Abraham Accords normalization agreements and the formation of forums such as the I2U2.
They also welcome other new regional groupings such as the Negev Forum, which consists of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt and the US.
Notably, the joint statement makes no mention of the Palestinians. The US in the past has pressed for inclusion of a commitment to advance the two-state solution in such documents, though it might have been outnumbered by the three other countries whose leaders have expressed less interest in publicly promoting the issue.
The leaders “discussed innovative ways to ensure longer-term, more diversified food production and food delivery systems that can better manage global food shocks,” the communique says.
As for the two projects, the first will see the UAE invest $2 billion to develop a series of food parks across India that will incorporate green technologies to reduce food waste, conserve fresh water and employ renewable energy sources.
The collaboration will see India provide land and integrate its farmers into the project, and the US and Israel will encourage their respective private sectors to offer their expertise for the initiative, which will help address food insecurity in South Asia and the Middle East.
The second initiative will be the creation of a hybrid renewable energy project in “India’s Gujarat State of 300 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar capacity complemented by a battery energy storage system,” the joint statement says.
The US Trade and Development Agency footed a $330 million feasibility study for the project and Emirati companies are exploring investment opportunities, with the encouragement of the US and Israeli governments.
The project will help advance India’s goal of achieving 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030 and transform the country into a global hub for renewable energy.
The I2U2 leaders stress that the two projects were only the beginning of a “long-term strategic partnership that… improve the movement of people and goods across hemispheres and increase sustainability… [through] collaborative science and technology partnerships.”
After talks, Biden says US ‘completely devoted’ to Israel’s security, Lapid praises his Saudi trip, says they discussed stopping Iran
US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid make brief remarks to the press, seated side by side at the conclusion of their one-on-one meeting. Notably, in remarks helpful to Biden, widely criticized for his volte face in going to Saudi Arabia after vowing to make it a pariah, Lapid says Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia is important for Israel.
As they wait for cameras to set up, Biden says, “We talked American baseball.”
Responds Lapid: “That is correct. We had a very long conversation about baseball, which I know nothing about. (Laughter.) And we didn’t mention Iran or Saudi Arabia or all those issues.”
Biden then speaks more formally to the press, at times reading from cue cards.
“Folks, I want to thank — I want to thank the Prime Minister. We had a good and beginning of what’s going to be a long — God willing — relationship, a candid conversation about both the problems and the opportunities both our countries face, particularly in the Middle East.
“And we talked about how important it was — I talked about how important it was, from my perspective, for Israel to be totally integrated into the region and completely integrated into the region.
“And we — we are — I guarantee you our administration –and I think the vast majority of the American public, not just my administration — is completely devoted to Israel’s security without any ifs, ands, or buts — without any doubts about it.
“And we also talked about the fact that we have a full day ahead of us, including a virtual summit with the — with India and the UAE. The four of us are going to have a discussion after this meeting is over.
“And — and that’s — we talked about a lot of things but mainly related to developing a personal friendship and the long-lasting commitment to both our countries, to one another.”
Lapid says the threat from Iran was discussed by the two leaders.
“It is great, Mr. President. Of course, we’ve discussed your — we also talked shop about Saudi Arabia and your trip there, which is extremely important to Israel, trying to build an even more moderate coalition here in the Middle East — long needed.
“And we discussed the Iranian threat and what we think is the right thing to do in order to make sure, which is something we share, there will be no nuclear Iran. This is not only a threat on Israel but to the world, to the globe.
“And we discussed some other issues we’re going to keep to ourselves.”
Both men laugh; they decline to take questions.
US President Joe Biden’s motorcade for his visit to Jerusalem is made up of 60 vehicles, the Kan public broadcaster says.
The dozens of vehicles traveled the approximately 400 meters (approximately 0.2 miles) from the King David Hotel, where Biden is staying with his entourage, to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where he is holding the first of his meetings today.
Biden travels in his armor-plated limousine, “The Beast,” which has been brought from the US, along with a fleet of armored limousines for his entourage.
Two presidential helicopters and six US Army Black Hawk choppers have also reportedly arrived in Israel.
A number of streets in the Jerusalem city center are closed, but police say they are trying to keep disruptions to a minimum.
In the afternoon, streets around the President’s Residence will be blocked to traffic.
And from the late afternoon, there will be massive traffic disruption around the Teddy Stadium in the Malha neighborhood, with thousands attending the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games — the so-called “Jewish Olympics.”
Using a common diplomatic trick, Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office says the premier’s meeting with US President Joe Biden is going longer than planned.
Israeli officials typically plan a shorter window of time than needed for meetings with world leaders, which end up “running late” due to the importance of the meeting.
The one-on-one meeting at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid begins.
At its conclusion, wider discussions will be held including the two leaders and their respective staffs.
Lapid and Biden are expected to sign a joint declaration that will include the US administration’s backing for extending the massive defense package Washington provides to the Jewish state.
They will also release the full “Jerusalem Declaration” that, in addition to backing Israel’s security, will see the sides commit to never allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Israel sends a new shipment of protective equipment to Ukraine’s emergency services, amid Russia’s near five-month-long invasion.
On Tuesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that Israel would send 1,500 helmets, 1,500 protective vests, hundreds of mine protection suits, 1,000 gas masks, and dozens of hazmat filtration systems.
The equipment is being loaded onto a flight, which will be taken to a neighboring European country first.
US President Joe Biden departs the King David Hotel and is driven to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for his meeting with Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Multiple roads have been closed in central Jerusalem to allow the journey to progress unimpeded.
Biden travels in an entourage of a number of armored limousines.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid holds a meeting with his senior staff ahead of his talks with US President Joe Biden.
Biden’s schedule starts at 11:15 a.m. with a one-on-one meeting with Lapid at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, followed by a broader meeting with their respective staffs.
Lapid and Biden will sign a joint declaration that will include the US administration’s backing for extending the massive defense package Washington provides to the Jewish state, a senior US official said last night.
The Foreign Ministry recommends that Israelis avoid all non-essential travel to Sri Lanka, after political turmoil gripping the country worsens.
“Israeli citizens in Sri Lanka are recommended to take into account the deteriorating economic situation that has resulted in an intensified shortage of fuel, cooking gas, and even food,” the Foreign Ministry travel warning continues. “This situation could develop into additional deteriorating of authorities’ ability to govern, which could include chaos in some areas of the country.”
The Foreign Ministry warns that leaving the country could be difficult because of uncertainty around flights leaving the capital, Colombo.
Sri Lanka’s president and prime minister agreed to resign Saturday after the country’s most chaotic day in months of political turmoil, with protesters storming both officials’ homes and setting fire to one of the buildings in a rage over the nation’s severe economic crisis.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country on Wednesday, and his replacement declared a state of emergency.
A senior US official denies that Washington was behind the directive issued to Israeli ministers at the welcome ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport not to expect handshakes from US President Joe Biden.
“We never put out guidance that nobody would shake hands or anything else,” the official says.
After fist-bumping Lapid on the tarmac, Biden went on to periodically shake the hands of other ministers.
The move was explained by some as being linked to COVID protocols.
But other analysts speculated that the directive reported by Hebrew media was put in place to prevent Biden from having to shake the hand of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman later this week in Jeddah. The US has sought to gingerly improve ties with Riyadh after Biden vowed during his campaign to treat the Gulf kingdom like a “pariah” over its human rights record.
Police begin to close streets in Jerusalem ahead of US President Joe Biden’s expected departure from the King David Hotel.
Police say that multiple streets in the city center are closed, with the US leader set to travel from the hotel to the Waldorf Astoria.
In the afternoon, streets around the President’s Residence will be blocked to traffic.
And from the late afternoon, there will be massive traffic disruption around the Teddy Stadium in the Malha neighborhood, with thousands attending the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games — the so-called “Jewish Olympics.”
Biden will greet US athletes participating in the games, and attend the opening ceremony along with Prime Minister Yair Lapid and other dignitaries.
Biden travels in his armor-plated limousine, “The Beast,” which has been brought from the US, along with a fleet of armored limousines for his entourage.
Two presidential helicopters and six US Army Black Hawk choppers have also reportedly arrived in Israel.
After a first day of US President Joe Biden’s visit described by senior Israeli officials as successful, the more substantive day begins.
The president’s schedule starts at 11:15 a.m. with a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Yair Lapid at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, followed by a broader meeting with their respective staffs.
Lapid and Biden will sign a joint declaration that will include the administration’s backing for extending the massive defense package Washington provides to the Jewish state, a senior US official said last night.
They will also release the full “Jerusalem Declaration” that, in addition to backing Israel’s security, will also see the sides commit to never allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
The two leaders will express support for the Abraham Accords and Israel’s integration in the region. The declaration also highlights shared concerns for global security issues, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the leaders offering their support for Ukrainian sovereignty.
At 12:30, Biden and Lapid will participate in a four-way I2U2 virtual meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UAE President Mohammed Bin Zayed. The US official said last night that the meeting would include an announcement of $2 billion for agricultural parks in India that Abu Dhabi will help fund and that will use Israeli technologies.
At 2 p.m., Biden and Lapid will hold a press conference at the hotel, in which they will field two questions from US journalists and two from Israeli reporters.
Biden’s day continues at the President’s Residence, where he will meet privately with President Isaac Herzog at 4:45 p.m.
While at the residence, Biden will hold a 15-minute meeting with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, after which Herzog will award Biden the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor in a festive ceremony.
The US president ends his day with Lapid at the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games at 7:30 p.m.
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