Biden to Visit Israel, Jordan to Keep War From Escalating

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.

(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.

Blinken said that Israel had agreed to develop a plan alongside the US “that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multilateral organizations to reach civilians in Gaza” as soon as possible.

US and Israeli leaders will also discuss the possibility of creating safe zones for civilians. Biden is expected to meet with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who invited him to make the trip, ahead of expected ground operations in the Gaza Strip. In a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Biden said he was going to  “travel to Israel to stand in solidarity in the face of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack.”

“I’ll then travel to Jordan to address dire humanitarian needs, meet with leaders, and make clear that Hamas does not stand for Palestinians’ right to self-determination,” Biden said in the post on X. 

The humanitarian deal is an important signal to Arab nations who have warned about the treatment of Palestinian civilians, as Biden seeks to keep the crisis from escalating further. In Jordan, Biden 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. 

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.

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.

–With assistance from Iain Marlow and Justin Sink.

(Updates with Biden post on X, additional details, starting in fourth paragraph.)

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