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Biden to Visit Israel, Jordan in Bid to Keep War From Escalating

Biden to Visit Israel, Jordan in Bid to Keep War From Escalating
US President Joe Biden speaks during a roundtable discussion with Jewish community leaders in the Indian Treaty Room of the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. Photographer: Samuel Corum/Sipa/Bloomberg

President Joe Biden will travel to Israel Wednesday, in a visit designed to signal US solidarity with its closest Middle East ally and help prevent the conflict from engulfing the region.

“He’s coming here at a critical moment for Israel, for the region and for the world,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said early Tuesday in Tel Aviv.

Biden, who was invited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will meet with the Israeli leader to discuss US assistance ahead of expected ground operations in the Gaza Strip and to caution other nations and militant groups to not use the crisis to undermine Israel.

The president will also stop in Jordan where he will speak with King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday evening. Kirby said the trip would last a single day and that Biden would visit Tel Aviv during the Israeli portion.

Biden’s visit to the region, which was first reported by Bloomberg, comes at a critical time. Israel has said it is preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza to “wipe out” Hamas after the group, designated a terrorist organization by the US and EU, launched an Oct. 7 attack, killing 1,300 people and kidnapping around 200, in the deadliest assault on the Jewish state in decades. Israel has blockaded Gaza and launched thousands of air strikes.

US officials have expressed concerns about the humanitarian toll of the war and have worked to minimize the impact on civilians. Officials are also focused on the fate of the dozens of hostages and some 500 US citizens in Gaza.

Biden cautioned against long-term Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip on Sunday in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes. In the long term, the territory should be governed by “a Palestinian authority,” he said. He also stressed his belief that Israel would act by the rules of war and that innocent civilians have access to medicine, food and water.

Iran, the main backer of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, on Monday, though, said an expansion of the war was increasingly becoming unavoidable.

“The time for political solutions is running out, and the possible expansion of the war on other fronts is approaching the inevitable stage,” Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Blinken has been visiting the region in a flurry of shuttle diplomacy to keep the conflict from spiraling, stopping in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in recent days. During his meeting with Netanyahu, the two briefly took shelter in a bunker as air raid sirens warned of a rocket attack in Tel Aviv. The meeting between the two lasted for seven and a half hours, Matt Miller, a State Department spokesman said.

Biden’s stop in Jordan offers an opportunity to address concerns raised by the Arab world with another close US ally. Biden and King Abdullah II spoke last week about the crisis to discuss ways to prevent the conflict from escalating and the protection of civilians.

Biden canceled a planned visit to Colorado on Monday to focus on national security matters. The president was briefed by officials including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns. He also held calls with Sisi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani.

Biden’s trip to Israel would be his second to an active war zone as president following a visit to Kyiv earlier this year to show his support for Ukraine as it seeks to repel Russia’s invasion.

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