Israel rolls out red carpet for ‘one of our best-ever friends’ as Biden kicks off Middle East tour

Special Israel rolls out red carpet for ‘one of our best-ever friends’ as Biden kicks off Middle East tour
Israeli officials said Biden’s visit would work toward what they called a Jerusalem Declaration on the US-Israel strategic partnership. (AFP)
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Updated 14 July 2022

Israel rolls out red carpet for ‘one of our best-ever friends’ as Biden kicks off Middle East tour

Israel rolls out red carpet for ‘one of our best-ever friends’ as Biden kicks off Middle East tour
  • Arriving in Israel on Wednesday, US President Biden described the connection between the two countries as “bone-deep”
  • While in Israel, the US president will discuss regional integration and efforts to counter Iran’s malign regional activities

DUBAI: In the skies above Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Air Force One lowered its giant wheels. On the ground below, red carpet already unrolled, the great and the good awaited the arrival of a US president six years older than the state of Israel itself.

Joe Biden is no stranger to Israel. This is his 10th visit, and he has met every one of the country’s prime ministers since he first came as a young senator in 1973 and sat down with Golda Meir.




Joe Biden is no stranger to Israel. This is his 10th visit. (AFP)

This time it was the turn of President Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid, Israel’s interim prime minister as it awaits yet another parliamentary election at the end of the year, to welcome Biden. The men exchanged fist bumps, in line with White House guidance that the US president would be avoiding personal contact because of COVID-19 precautions.

However, Biden made an exception for Benjamin Netanyahu, sharing a hearty handshake with the opposition leader and former prime minister. The president also placed a friendly hand on the shoulders of several Israeli dignitaries.

In a welcoming speech, Lapid told Biden: “Your relationship with Israel has always been personal,” and said the president was “one of the best friends Israel has ever known.”

In a similar vein, Herzog played on Biden’s first name, deeming him “both a visionary and a leader” like the biblical Joseph. Biden was “truly among family” in Israel, Herzog said.

In reply, Biden described the connection between the two countries as “bone-deep.” He said: “We have a full agenda over the next few days, because the relationship between Israel and the US covers every issue that matters to our mutual future. We are united in our shared values and our shared vision.

“I’m proud to say that our relationship with the state of Israel is deeper and stronger in my view than it’s ever been. With this visit, we’re strengthening our connections even further. We’ll continue to advance Israel’s integration into the region.”

The issue of Iran, particularly its nuclear program and regional meddling through proxy militias, tops the agenda for Biden’s visit — not just in Israel but also later when he visits Saudi Arabia.

Herzog referred on Wednesday to the “security challenges emanating directly from Iran and its proxies, threatening Israel and its neighbors and endangering our region.”

Lapid said that he and Biden would “discuss building a new security and economy architecture with the nations of the Middle East,” following US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020 with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco.




Biden was “truly among family” in Israel, President Isaac Herzog said. (AFP)

“And we will discuss the need to renew a strong global coalition that will stop the Iranian nuclear program,” he said.

Israeli officials said Biden’s visit would work toward what they called a Jerusalem Declaration on the US-Israel strategic partnership. One official said the joint declaration “takes a very clear and united stand against Iran, its nuclear program and its aggression across the region and commits both countries to using all elements of their national power against the Iranian nuclear threat.”

Indeed, before Biden had even left Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday, Israeli security officials had shown him their latest hardware, which they say is essential in confronting Iran — the new Iron Beam system of anti-drone lasers.

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Israeli officials have increasingly been sounding the alarm over Iran’s fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, which have already been used to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This month the Israeli military intercepted four Iranian-made drones launched by Hezbollah and headed for an offshore gas rig.

On Wednesday, the Israeli army showed Biden footage of drones being intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system already in place, and the Iron Beam system which uses laser technology.

“It will be operational in very few years, it will be on the ground, integrated with Iron Dome,” said Daniel Gold, head of research at Israel’s Defense Ministry.

He said the two systems would complement each other. “They will work together, and the brain of Iron Dome — the command and control — will decide in real time who is going to shoot, the laser or the missile,” he said.

Presenting such technology to Biden is a strategic move for Israel, after Washington approved a billion-dollar package in September for the Iron Dome system.

After leaving the airport on Wednesday, Biden’s first stop was another rite of passage for every diplomatic visitor to Israel — a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial to pay his respects to the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during the Second World War.

Joined by Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, both of whom are children of Holocaust survivors, Biden was invited to rekindle the eternal flame in the memorial's Hall of Remembrance.

A children’s choir sang a poem by Hannah Szenes, a female Jewish resistance fighter who was captured by the Nazis in Hungary and executed at the age of 23.

Two Marines placed a wreath on the stone crypt containing the ashes of Holocaust victims. Biden, wearing a skullcap, bent down to adjust it and placed his hand over his heart as the Marines saluted for a moment of silence.

Biden listened quietly as a cantor recited the remembrance prayer, before he greeted two Holocaust survivors — Rena Quint, 86, and Giselle Cycowicz, 95. Kissing the women on their cheeks, the president had tears in his eyes as he engaged them in conversation. “My mother would say: ‘God love you, dear’,” Biden told the women.

Quint later said she told Biden how her mother and brothers were killed in a death camp. Born in Poland, she was reunited with her father in a male slave labor factory, where she pretended to be a boy. Her father also was murdered. Quint arrived in the US in 1946 and was adopted by a childless Jewish couple.




Biden said he would emphasize in talks with Israel and Palestinian leaders his continued support for a two-state solution. (AFP)

“Did you see the president hug me?” she said after her encounter with Biden. “He asked permission to kiss me and he kept on holding my hand and we were told not to touch him.”

The president is spending two days in Jerusalem for talks with Israeli officials before meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday in the West Bank.

Biden said he would emphasize in talks with Israel and Palestinian leaders his continued support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he said was the best way to ensure a “future of equal measure of freedom, prosperity and democracy for Israelis and Palestinians alike.” But he acknowledged that it probably would not be feasible “in the near term.”

On Friday Biden will travel directly from Tel Aviv to Jeddah to meet King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, other Gulf state leaders and officials from Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

 

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Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis
Updated 05 December 2022

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis

Kuwaiti charity offers psychological aid to victims of war, crisis
  • Team of 30 psychologists, specialists will provide support to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey

KUWAIT: A Kuwaiti charity is offering psychological aid and emotional support for victims of wars and crises in the Middle East.

The International Islamic Charity Organization charity has established a team of 30 psychologists and specialists who will provide support in three refugee-hosting countries: Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, Kuwait News Agency reported on Monday.

Othman Al-Asfour, head of the lICO Tarahum team, said that the initiative affirms an integral part of social and psychological support in humanitarian aid.

Psychologist Dr. Shereefa Al-Khamees stressed that refugees were in urgent need of psychological aid as much as handouts and donations.

The psychological health of the affected is very delicate and requires thorough treatment and support, Al-Khamees added.

 


Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation
Updated 05 December 2022

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation

Jordan, Algeria launch new phase of cooperation
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah, Algerian president witness signing of two agreements and three MoUs
  • Governments instructed to take steps to boost investment, commercial opportunities in both countries

ALGIERS: Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune have launched a new phase of bilateral relations.

The leaders held talks on Sunday in Algiers to discuss boosting Jordanian-Algerian cooperation in politics, economics, trade, investment, and defense, Jordan News Agency reported.

The meeting, which was attended by senior officials from both sides, also affirmed interest in maintaining coordination and consultation on Arab causes and other issues of mutual concern. 

King Abdullah reiterated the centrality of the Palestinian cause and the need to protect Palestinians’ legitimate rights. 

He called for a just and comprehensive peace plan based on the two-state solution which establishes an independent and sovereign Palestinian state along the June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

He also reaffirmed the significance of maintaining the historical and legal status quo at Al Aqsa Mosque.

Following the meeting, the leaders witnessed the signing of an agreement on visa exemptions for diplomatic passport-holders, as well as a cooperation program between Jordan News Agency and the Algerian Press Service. 

Three memorandums of understanding on political consultations, cooperation between the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy and the Algeria Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations, and the mutual recognition of maritime qualification certificates for seafarers, education programs, and maritime training between the two countries were also signed.

King Abdullah and President Tebboune further instructed their governments to take the necessary steps to encourage investors and businesses to explore investment and commercial opportunities in both countries. 

They were also directed to move forward with agreements that would expand collaborations in health care, energy, medical tourism, hotels, transportation, aviation training, higher education, and cultural exchange between universities. 

Economists have praised the outcomes of King Abdullah’s state visit to Algeria.

Jordanian Senator Mazen Darwazah said that Jordanian investment in Algeria has gradually increased over the last two decades, with the drug industry spending nearly $1 billion.

Jordanian-Algerian Business Council Coordinator Khaled Al-Soub said that Algerian law allows Jordanian investors to expand their projects and acquire shares from foreign partners. 

Energy expert Hashem Akel said that Algeria was rich in petrol and natural resources and hoped that energy imports from the country would increase after Jordan receives preferential prices.

 


Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
Updated 05 December 2022

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
  • ‘Many common points were found during the talks,’ source in PM’s office tells Arab News
  • Trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed

ROME: Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged their country’s “full cooperation” with Jordan “in every field,” during a meeting with King Abdullah II.

The monarch and Queen Rania were received by Mattarella at Quirinale Palace during their visit to Rome.

A source in the Italian presidency told Arab News that Mattarella stressed to the king “the importance for his country of the longstanding friendship between Italy and Jordan.” 

Italy is one of Jordan’s main commercial partners. In the first five months of 2021, bilateral trade grew by 26.7 percent compared to the same period the previous year. During the same period, Jordanian exports to Italy grew by 82.7 percent.

During an official lunch at Chigi Palace, Meloni told the king: “We always can do more together in so many fields.”

A source in the prime minister’s office said trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed.

“The situation in Syria was also covered. Many common points were found during the talks,” the source told Arab News.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and Defense Minister Guido Crosetto also attended the lunch.


UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
Updated 05 December 2022

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
  • Israeli censorship a concern, says ALECSO representative

CAIRO: The Palestinian education system should be protected from attempts to censor material being taught at schools.

This was the concern raised by some officials at the 32nd joint meeting of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and the Council of Educational Affairs of the Arab League in Cairo, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The gathering took place at the Arab League’s headquarters in Egypt’s capital.

Dr. Tamer Anis, a representative of the Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization, drew attention to Israel’s attempts to censor the Palestinian curriculum. He urged support for the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

Arab News had reported this year about attempts by Israel to impose a “sanitized” curriculum on East Jerusalem’s schools that includes the deletion of all photos of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the word Palestine and the Palestinian flag. Holy Qur’anic verses were also deleted on claims that they help strengthen Palestinian, Arab and Islamic identities.

At Sunday’s meeting in Cairo, Saeed Abu Ali, the Arab League’s assistant secretary-general for Palestine and the occupied Arab territories, said the gathering comes in the wake of the UNRWA’s ongoing financial crisis, which has had a direct impact on the services provided to Palestinian refugees.

Abu Ali stressed the need for the next UNRWA budget to reflect the growing needs of Palestinian refugees. He added that the Arab League would continue to keep communication channels open between the two organizations

Rawda Al-Hajj, the representative of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that ISESCO continues to support several education projects in Palestine.

The UNRWA’s Deputy Director of Education Moritz Bilagher reiterated that the Palestinian refugee crisis was not solely the responsibility of Arab countries, but rather a global issue for which the international community must take responsibility.

 


Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
Updated 05 December 2022

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
  • Israeli president among 300 high-ranking personalities attending the event

DUBAI: Israeli president Isaac Herzog has arrived in the UAE Monday to attend the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, state news agency (WAM) reported.

Herzog was welcomed by the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The Israeli president will be among 300 high-ranking personalities and decision makers attending the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, which opened on Monday.

The two-day event will discuss the space industry’s most pressing challenges and factors to drive the new space economy.