US officials have requested that Israel limit the list of guests and the duration of the reception ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport for US President Joe Biden upon his expected arrival next month, according to a report Wednesday.
According to Channel 13 news, the request may have been submitted due to Biden’s age (he is 79) or due to weather conditions, with high temperatures and humidity expected during Israel’s summer months.
While the unnamed US officials did not specify the reason for the request, Channel 13 also raised the possibility of it having something to do with Israel’s shaky political situation, after outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday that the Knesset would be dispersed next week, sending the country to its fifth elections since 2019. The report didn’t elaborate on how that could have affected the reception ceremony.
Another potential reason for the unusual request could be an attempt to avoid a repetition of an incident that took place in May 2017, when then-MK Oren Hazan pushed his way through the line of dignitaries at the airport to snatch a selfie with then-US president Donald Trump.
Hazan, who was a firebrand member of then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, was not supposed to be standing in the line of people shaking Trump’s hand, but somehow managed to make his way into the line.
He later posted the picture on his Facebook page with the caption, “Thank you Mr. President — it was my pleasure!”
The incident drew condemnation from other Israeli officials, deeming the fiasco “a real embarrassment.”
The Foreign Ministry is examining the American request and considering shortening the invite list to the ceremony, Channel 13 reported.
Other options that were being considered were shortening the time allocated to speeches and canceling the hand-shaking ceremony altogether.
The Prime Minister’s Office said the invite list has not been compiled yet, according to the report.
Meanwhile, a senior American official hinted Wednesday ahead of Biden’s upcoming trip that more Arab nations were looking to make gestures to improve relations with Israel.
“We are working, in the space that is not in the public domain, with a couple of other countries. And I think you’ll see some interesting things around the time of the president’s visit,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf told a congressional subcommittee.
Biden will travel from July 13 to 16 to Israel, to the West Bank, and to a regional meeting in Saudi Arabia, a country Trump assiduously courted while he was in office, in hopes the kingdom home to Islam’s holiest sites would recognize the Jewish state.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.