Biden reportedly still intends to visit Israel in June, despite Knesset unrest
The White House reportedly informed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office on Saturday that US President Joe Biden still plans to visit Israel next month, despite political unrest in Jerusalem.
The president’s trip, announced last month, will go ahead as planned and is expected to take place in late June, Channel 12 reported.
Preparations for the trip are already underway, including security coordination between Israeli and US officials.
During the trip, Biden’s first to Israel as president, he will meet Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog, then travel to Bethlehem to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Bennett’s governing coalition is faltering after two members jumped ship in recent weeks, reducing it to a minority of 59 seats in the Knesset’s 120 seats. Meretz Knesset member Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi resigned from the coalition on Thursday, but she is reportedly in talks to return to the fold.
The coalition can survive as a minority government. The opposition must muster the support of 61 lawmakers to dissolve the Knesset, and it is not clear that all members outside the coalition would vote to do so.
A Knesset member from the Arab-majority opposition Joint List faction announced on Friday that he would submit a bill to start the process of dissolving the Knesset, but the bill is expected to pass several readings and gain the support of an absolute majority of Knesset members to succeed. .
There have recently been tensions between Jerusalem and Washington over settlements, West Bank entry rules and the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in an exchange of fire between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen earlier this month.
Channel 12 reported on Wednesday that US officials have vigorously protested a planned new Israeli policy restricting foreigners from entering the West Bank. The planned measures would expand the entry protocol for foreigners, including US citizens, making the process they need longer and more complicated.
Last week, after Israeli police rushed Abu Akleh’s funeral and beat them with batons, the White House called the scene “deeply disturbing”. On Friday, 57 Democrats in the US House of Representatives called on the State Department and the FBI to investigate the murder.
Earlier this month, Washington denounced Israeli plans to advance nearly 4,000 housing units in West Bank settlements.
“We strongly oppose settlement expansion that heightens tensions and undermines trust between the parties,” said Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter. “Israel’s settlement expansion program deeply undermines the prospects for a two-state solution.”
The White House announced Biden’s planned visit to Israel on April 24 following a phone call with Bennett. Biden last visited the country as vice president in 2016. Bennett met Biden at the White House in August.
Defense Secretary Benny Gantz met with senior US officials in Washington last week for talks focused on the Iranian nuclear threat.