President Joe Biden will travel to Israel on Wednesday in what is likely to be a dramatic show of solidarity with a nation reeling from Hamas’ deadly attack.
The announcement of Biden’s impending trip was made by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday. Blinken himself was in Israel, where he had held hours of meetings with the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The President will reaffirm the United States’ solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security,” Blinken said.
The trip by Biden could come on the cusp of Israel launching a ground invasion of Gaza, a backdrop that has left some administration officials worried. Biden will be going to Tel Aviv. But he will also stop in Amman, the capital of Jordan,
where he will meet with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt and King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Netanyahu invited Biden to visit when the two men spoke on Saturday, officials said.
Biden had told aides he was interested in going, as his presence would demonstrate strong U.S. support after Hamas killed more than 1,400 Israelis and took around 150 hostages, including Americans. But the likelihood of escalating hostilities could mean that the trip occurs during a particularly precarious point in the developing war.
White House aides noted that Biden has made daring trips before, namely his visit to Kyiv in February, as Ukraine’s war with Russia raged. That visit was considered by many aides to be one of the highlights of his presidency. The 80-year-old Biden has also traveled elsewhere to the region — visiting both Poland and Lithuania — as demonstrations of the United States’ commitment to defending democracies worldwide.
This trip, however, could be a bit more perilous.
Back in February, the U.S. communicated to Russia to not interfere with the trip and Moscow, perhaps mindful of an American reprisal, did not try to stop the president, though air raid sirens did go off as Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy walked the streets of Kyiv. Hamas, a group the United States has designated a terrorist organization, would be more likely to take a provocative strike at a traveling president.
John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesperson, said there’s no agreement between the U.S. and Israel to halt any ground invasion of Gaza while Biden is in Israel.
“We are not dictating military terms and operational mandates to the Israeli military,” he told reporters Monday night.
Kirby added that the president wouldn’t take such a trip unless proper security parameters were in place. However, a decision to make the visit was taken within 48 hours of Netanyahu inviting Biden to Israel.
Two U.S. ships, USS Bataan and Carter Hall, featuring hundreds of Marines on board, are moving to the Mediterranean from the Persian Gulf. They’ll join a fleet of ships in the region, including two aircraft carriers.
Also headed to Israel this week is New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who announced the trip Monday night as well.
“Tomorrow, I’ll be traveling to Israel for a solidarity mission where I plan to meet with diplomatic leaders and communities who have been devastated by the horrific Hamas attacks,” Hochul said.
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