May 3, 2022 - World

Scoop: U.S. explores holding regional leaders' meeting during Biden's Middle East visit

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Biden shake hands while meeting in the Oval Office on Aug. 27, 2021.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Biden shake hands while meeting in the Oval Office on Aug. 27, 2021. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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.
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