By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The American and Israeli officials currently planning President Joe Biden’s quick visit to Israel in late June are exploring the possibility of broadening its scope to include a meeting of regional leaders, Axios reported Tuesday.
The news site cited two unnamed Israeli officials who said that the idea came up during discussions last week in Washington between the two allies’ national security advisers, Dr. Eyal Hulata and Jake Sullivan. They emphasized that the proposal was in the preliminary stages, with no decision on venue or participants.
As of now, Biden is only expected to spend 24-36 hours on the ground, meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Israeli officials in Jerusalem and Palestinian officials in Bethlehem, the Americans said.
Such an expanded meeting could rebuild the momentum of the Negev Summit in March, which itself strengthened regional ties first formed in the Abraham Accords. At the summit, the foreign ministers of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco – all members of the Abraham Accords – met with their Egyptian and American counterparts to show, first and foremost, unity in the face of the regional security threat of Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken specified at the time that the Biden administration would help solidify the gains made through the Accords.
Since then, Israel has been blamed in several Arab countries for Muslim riots on the Temple Mount during the just-concluded month of Ramadan. Abu Dhabi summoned Israel’s ambassador for a dressing-down for “attacks on civilians and incursions into holy places” after Israeli police responded to the violence by clamping down on the rioters.
Biden’s visit will be his first to the region since taking office last year. Bennett invited him late last month during a phone call in which they discussed the tensions on the Temple Mount as well as current regional and global security challenges.