Scoop: U.S. explores holding regional leaders' meeting during Biden's Middle East visit
The White House and the Israeli prime minister’s office discussed holding a regional leaders' meeting as part of President Biden’s visit to the Middle East toward the end of June, two Israeli officials told Axios.
Why it matters: A regional leaders' meeting headed by Biden would signal U.S. leadership and commitment in the Middle East at a time when the U.S. is seen as withdrawing from the region.
Driving the news: During a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on April 24, Biden accepted an invitation to visit Israel in the coming months, the White House said in a statement.
- Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan discussed the upcoming trip during talks at the White House last week, Israeli officials said.
The big picture: Sullivan and Hulata talked about the possibility of adding a regional element to Biden's visit, according to the Israeli officials.
- One of the ideas was to hold a meeting between Biden, Bennett and several other leaders from the region either in Israel or in another country as a means to continue the momentum of the the Negev summit that took place in Israel in late March and as a way to further strengthen the Abraham Accords.
- The Israeli officials stressed that the discussion was very preliminary and it is unclear if such a meeting will be possible, but talks on the issue are ongoing.
- The White House declined to comment.
State of play: Israeli officials said a final date for Biden’s visit has not been determined but should take place in the last two weeks of June.
- The visit is expected to be relatively short, with Biden spending 24-36 hours on the ground, meeting Israeli officials in Jerusalem and Palestinian officials in Bethlehem, the Israeli officials said.
- It will be Biden’s first trip to the Middle East since he took office. It is still unclear whether he will use the trip to visit other countries in the region.
- A White House team arrived in Israel on Monday to begin discussions with the Israeli government on preparing the visit.