Jul 11, 2022 - World

Scoop: U.S. rejected request for Israeli officials to join Biden East Jerusalem visit


Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. rejected an Israeli request to allow Israeli government officials to join President Biden’s upcoming visit to the Augusta Victoria Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem, four Israeli officials told Axios.

Why it matters: Biden’s visit to the hospital is diplomatically sensitive due to the fact it is located in East Jerusalem, which most countries see as the future Palestinian capital.

  • In December 2017, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Since then, Israeli government officials have joined U.S. officials in their visits to East Jerusalem.
  • Israel is also in an election campaign, making the visit even more politically charged. Every decision on the issue could generate a domestic political debate in Israel.

Driving the news: Biden is expected to visit the Augusta Victoria Hospital on Friday morning before heading to Bethlehem for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

  • At the hospital, Biden is expected to meet with Palestinian civil society activists, according to Israeli officials.
  • Biden is also expected to announce during the visit $100 million in U.S. assistance to the Palestinian hospitals network in East Jerusalem, Axios reported on Sunday.
  • The U.S. asked the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to match the U.S. aid with $100 million in assistance together.

Behind the scenes: Israeli Ministry of Health officials spoke to U.S. officials on Sunday and asked if Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz or a lower-level Israeli health official could join Biden’s visit to the hospital.

  • The Israeli officials told Axios that Biden administration officials rejected the request, saying it is a “private visit," not a political one.
  • The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
  • The Israeli government didn’t like the U.S. response. A senior Israeli official told Axios that this is a matter of Israeli sovereignty.

The big picture: Also on Sunday, Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata held a meeting about the U.S. request that Israel give assistance to the Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem.

  • According to Israeli officials, the Israeli Ministry of Health was in favor and proposed giving $5 million to the hospitals. Officials from the Ministry of Justice and Foreign Ministry also supported the move.
  • But representatives of the Shin Bet security service and other security officials were against it, claiming it could undermine the Palestinian Authority, Israeli officials said.

What’s next: Israeli officials said they are going to continue discussing with the U.S. in the coming days the possibility of Israeli officials joining Biden’s visit to the hospital in East Jerusalem.

  • The senior Israeli officials added they think the issue will be solved by Friday.
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