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Biden says Mideast trip aimed at boosting Israel’s integration; reveals Jerusalem’s lobbying

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

US President Joe Biden says that one of the purposes of his upcoming trip to the Middle East is to “deepen Israel’s integration in the region.”

“I think we’re going to be able to do [that], which is good — good for peace and good for Israeli security,” he says during a press conference while visiting Spain.

“That’s why Israeli leaders have come out so strongly for my going to Saudi [Arabia],” he says, publicly revealing the lobbying by Jerusalem for the US president to visit Jeddah, amid apprehension from some in his party over the Gulf kingdom’s human rights record.

“I’m starting off on that trip in Israel… [I] believe it’s really important that I make the trip,” he says. “I’m… going to Israel to meet with Israeli leaders to affirm the unbreakable bond Israel and the United States have.”

Biden will be traveling to Saudi Arabia for a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council on July 15 after two days in Israel and the West Bank. “It’s in Saudi Arabia, but it’s not about Saudi Arabia.”

He confirms that he’ll be “seeing” Saudi Crown Muhammad bin Salman but only as part of the larger GCC+3 meeting. Biden also insists that he won’t be seeking to press Riyadh to increase its oil production in order to compensate for rising gas prices in the US: “I’ve indicated to them that I thought they should be increasing oil production, generically — not to the Saudis particularly.”

“The overall piece here is we’re also going to try to reduce the deaths in the war that’s occurring in Yemen,” he continues. “There’s a whole range of things that go well beyond anything having to do with Saudi [Arabic] in particular.”

“They have real concerns about what’s going on in Iran and other places in terms of their security as well,” Biden acknowledges.

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