“Interesting Things” Promised for Biden Trip

By Zalman Ahnsaf

YERUSHALAYIM – A senior American diplomat hinted that President Joe Biden’s upcoming trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia will feature significant progress in regional politics.

“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,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf told a congressional subcommittee on Wednesday.

Biden’s itinerary, from July 13 to 16, includes Yerushalayim and Riyadh, where a regional meeting is planned.

Leaf did not elaborate on what “interesting things” she had in mind. In recent months, there have been reports of U.S. efforts to get the Saudis to commit to normalization with Israel, but so far they have stuck to their policy of insisting that Israel resolve the Palestinian issue first.

Axios reported on Wednesday that the White House is preparing a “road map” for normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but that it will take a long time, and no details were available.

A senior Israeli official told the news site that while no major breakthrough was likely during Biden’s trip, a smaller agreement that would see Israeli airlines using Saudi airspace for flights to India and China was close to being finalized.

A senior Saudi Arabian journalist told Channel 12 on Wednesday that Israel and Saudi Arabia do not need American mediation.

“In my opinion, there is no need for the U.S. president to be a mediator between Tel Aviv and other countries,” said Mubarak al-Ati, the director of Saudi Arabia’s official al-Ekhbariya Radio.

“The negotiating tables are open, and we can talk openly,” al-Ati said, mentioning recent remarks by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who said Israel could be a “potential ally” of Riyadh.

“Nothing is stopping relations with Israel… and I think all the signs show that Israel can be part of Saudi Arabia’s network of connections,” he added.

Meanwhile, said Leaf, the UAE-Israel relationship “is going like gangbusters.”

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