The White House said President Biden will meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other Saudi leaders on Friday evening.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the marquee meeting will precede additional meetings on Saturday and the GCC Plus 3 (Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Iraq and Jordan) summit on the future of the Middle East and America’s role.
“He’ll talk about America’s historic role in the region and his commitment to maintain strong American leadership in the Middle East going forward on a basis that is appropriate for 2022 rather than 2002, and he will also talk about human rights,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One en route to Israel, the first stop in the two-leg trip.
The meeting with the crown prince will be closely monitored. During the campaign, Mr. Biden said the Saudis should become a “pariah” state after the crown prince and others were implicated in the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based critic of the kingdom’s rulers.
Now, Mr. Biden is engaging with the Saudis as a key regional partner and major oil producer, as high gas prices become a drag on his presidency.
Pressed on human rights, Mr. Sullivan pointed to U.S. support for a “fragile” cease-fire between Saudi and Iranian proxy fighters in Yemen, saying the pause in the civil war preserved lives.
He also said Mr. Biden is confident he can negotiate an adequate and “sustainable” supply of energy during his talks with Gulf region suppliers.
Mr. Sullivan said the U.S., European Union and the U.K. are in detailed discussions with India, China and other countries in pursuit of a price cap on Russian oil. Western allies want to slash Vladimir Putin’s revenues.
“That is not a process that will be completed in days,” he said.
Mr. Sullivan said the first stop of the trip will be Mr. Biden’s 10th trip to Israel during his political career.
The trip will focus on Mr. Biden’s commitment to Israel’s security and its “future as a democratic and Jewish state,” Mr. Sullivan said.
Mr. Sullivan said the president will also reprise his “long-standing commitment” to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, saying it is the best path to a viable state of Israel and “a Palestinian state where Palestinians can live in freedom and dignity.”
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“He won’t be making formal proposals for the launch of some new peace initiative, what he will do is try to encourage both sides to find a pathway where step by step they move closer towards a vision that works for both Israelis and Palestinians and the region as a whole,” Mr. Sullivan said.
The death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh will also be a topic of discussion. An analysis showed she likely died from a bullet shot by Israeli Defense Forces.
Mr. Sullivan said the U.S. doesn’t have reason to believe the shooting was intentional, but it would like to see accountability for the tragedy.
Mr. Biden will recommit U.S. support to Israel’s Iron Dome defense system and a new laser-based defense system known as Iron Beam.
He will also pay respects at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, discuss food security and agriculture with Israeli leaders and drop in on the Maccabiah Games, an athletic competition.