TEL AVIV, Israel
President Joe Biden will travel to Israel and on to Jordan on Wednesday to meet with both Israeli and Arab leadership, as concerns increase that the raging Israel-Hamas war could expand into a larger regional conflict.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Biden’s travel to Israel as the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip grows more dire and as Israel prepares for a possible ground attack on the 141-square-mile (365-square-kilometer) territory to root out Hamas militants responsible for what U.S. and Israeli officials say was the most lethal assault against Jews since the Holocaust.
Biden is looking to send the strongest message yet that the U.S. is behind Israel. His Democratic administration has pledged military support, sending U.S. carriers and aid to the region. Officials have said they would ask Congress for upward of $2 billion in additional aid for both Israel and Ukraine, which is fighting Russia’s invasion.
It’s a chance for Biden to burnish his national security credentials to U.S. voters with the 2024 election just over a year away. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate that he’s making good on his campaign promise of exercising American leadership after four years of former President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.
But Biden’s presence could be seen as a provocative move by Hamas’ chief sponsor, Iran, or potentially viewed as tone-deaf by Arab nations as civilian casualties mount in Gaza. Blinken has already been traveling around the Mideast this past week trying to prevent the war with Hamas from igniting a broader regional conflict.
Blinken made the announcement early Tuesday after more than seven hours of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials.
“He is coming here at a critical moment for Israel, for the region and for the world,” Blinken said.
Blinken added that Biden will be briefed by Israeli officials on their war aims and strategy and would hear about how they intend to conduct operations “in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and enables humanitarian assistance to flow to civilians in Gaza in a way that does not benefit Hamas.”
Shortly after in Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced that Biden would also go to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“We’ve been crystal clear about the need for humanitarian aid to be able to continue to flow into Gaza,” Kirby said. “That has been a consistent call by President Biden and certainly by this entire administration.”
Truckloads of aid idled Monday at Egypt’s border with Gaza, barred from entry, as residents and humanitarian groups pleaded for water, food and fuel for dying generators, saying the tiny Palestinian territory sealed off by Israel after last week’s rampage by Hamas was near total collapse.
Biden had been scheduled to travel to Pueblo, Colorado, on Monday but decided to postpone the visit so he could consult with his aides and speak with fellow leaders about the unfolding situation in the Middle East.
Source: AP News