President Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday, kicking off his short tour of the Middle East. In remarks made after his plane landed, the president said the connection between Israelis and Americans is “bone deep” and voiced his staunch support for the Jewish state.
“The connection between the Israeli people and the American people is bone deep. It’s bone-deep,” Biden said at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. The president added that he believes the US relationship with Israel “is deeper and stronger, in my view, than it’s ever been.”
The president voiced his support for a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. “We’ll discuss my continued support — even though I know it’s not in the near-term — a two-state solution,” he said.
Critics of a two-state solution argue that it’s not practical as Israel continues the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A two-state proposal put forward during the Trump administration, dubbed the “Vision for Peace,” would have allowed Israel to keep its settlements, annex a large portion of the Jordan Valley, and would have created Israeli-only access roads through Palestinian territory, all terms that Palestinians would never accept.
Biden is set to visit the West Bank and Saudi Arabia on his trip, and a major focus of his will be deepening Israeli military cooperation with Arab states in the region. Israel is looking to build a military alliance against Iran with a focus on integrated air defense and showcased missile systems and a new laser system to Biden shortly after his remarks at the airport.
Also on Wednesday, an interview with Biden aired on an Israeli TV network where he dismissed criticism of Israel from progressive Democrats. “There are few of them. I think they’re wrong. I think they’re making a mistake,” he said. “Israel is a democracy. Israel is our ally. Israel is a friend, and I think that I make no apologies.”
Biden has come under pressure for his plans to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the de facto Saudi ruler’s role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The president has also been asked to address the Israeli killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was gunned down by Israeli forces in the West Bank on May 11. The Biden administration side-stepped a request for the president to meet with Abu Akleh’s family and instead invited them to visit Washington.