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July 10, 2022 5:14 pm

‘Historic Week’: Israel Encourages New Ties in Region Ahead of Biden Mideast Visit

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid makes a statement at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, July 10, 2022. Maya Alleruzzo/Pool via REUTERS

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday encouraged Middle Eastern neighbors to normalize ties with Israel ahead of this week’s visit by US President Joe Biden to the region.

“Israel extends its hand to all the countries of the region and calls on them to build ties with us, establish relations with us, and change history for our children,” Lapid said at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

Biden’s Mideast tour starts on Wednesday, with the US president meeting Israeli and Palestinian officials in Israel and the West Bank before heading to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his leadership team, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“We are at the start of a historic week,” Lapid said. “On Wednesday, President Joe Biden will land here, one of the closest friends that Israel has ever had in American politics, who once said about himself: ‘You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist. I am a Zionist.'”

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Biden will “carry with him a message of peace and hope from us” when he leaves Jerusalem and flies to Saudi Arabia, Lapid stated.

In a commentary published in the Washington Post on Saturday, Biden noted he will be the first US president to fly from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which he described as a “small symbol of the budding relations and steps toward normalization between Israel and the Arab world, which my administration is working to deepen and expand.” Two years ago, as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords, Israel signed normalization agreements with Arab states including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco.

Discussions between Lapid and Biden will focus on the Iranian nuclear program and how to expand security cooperation.

“Yesterday, it was revealed that Iran is enriching uranium in advanced centrifuges in complete contravention of the agreements it has signed,” Lapid lamented, referring to an International Atomic Energy Agency report. “The international response needs to be decisive: to return to the UN Security Council and activate the sanctions mechanism at full force.”

“Israel, for its part, reserves for itself full freedom of action, diplomatic and operational, in the fight against the Iranian nuclear program,” he said.

The Israeli premier also thanked the White House for its decision to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, a sticking point for Tehran in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

“Iran is behind Hezbollah and supports Hamas, and Iranian terror cells recently tried to murder Israeli tourists in Istanbul,” Lapid said. “Israel will not stand idly by while Iran tries to attack us. Our security services know how to reach anyone, anywhere — and they will do just that.”

On Saturday, Lapid and Jordan’s King Abdullah II spoke on the phone about deepening cooperation between Israel and Jordan, Biden’s upcoming visit, and regional challenges.

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