Biden to Visit Israel, Palestinian Authority Next Week

During his visit, the U.S. vice president is set to discuss the floundering talks between Jerusalem and Washington on American military aid to Israel for the next decade.

AFP

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is due to arrive next Tuesday for a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the White House said Wednesday.

Biden is scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. He is to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Biden is also scheduled to visit Jordan and the United Arab Emirates on his trip.

This will be Biden’s third visit to Israel since becoming vice president seven years ago. His first visit, in March 2010, turned into a diplomatic dispute between Israel and the United States following the announcement issued during the visit about Israel’s intention to advance construction plans beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem.

Biden said at the time that Israel’s decision to approve 1,600 new homes in an ultra-Orthodox East Jerusalem neighborhood was undermining the Middle East peace talks. He condemned Israel’s decision and said, “We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them.”

The next time Biden came to Israel was in January 2014 to take part in former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s funeral.

During his visit next week, Biden is set to discuss the floundering talks between Israel and the United States on the U.S. military aid to Israel for the next decade. The two sides have yet to reach an agreement about how much money the United States will give Israel annually as military assistance. Netanyahu, who invited Biden to Israel, hopes the vice president will persuade U.S. President Barack Obama to increase the aid.

According to the current military aid agreement, Israel will receive an average of some $3 billion a year. Netanyahu wants to increase it to $4 billion a year in the new agreement.

About 10 days after Biden’s visit, Netanyahu is expected to visit the United States to attend the AIPAC conference. At this stage no meeting has been set between Netanyahu and Obama, but the prime minister’s aides and the White House are holding talks in a bid to make that happen before Obama goes on his historic visit to Cuba on March 20.

Before Netanyahu flies to Washington, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is due to visit the American capital to meet with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. This meeting, too, will focus on the U.S. military aid agreement.