Ahead of Biden Visit, Israel 'Extends Hand' to Saudi Arabia

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says Israel, Saudi Arabia have common interest to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a bill signing ceremony on Monday, about a month ahead of his first trip to the Middle East as president.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a bill signing ceremony on Monday, about a month ahead of his first trip to the Middle East as president.Credit: Patrick Semansky /AP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday that Israel seeks peace with Saudi Arabia "as with any country in the region."

Speaking in Jerusalem, Lapid cited Iranian attacks on Saudi Arabia and stressed the common interest in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state.

"I won't say whether we have under-the-radar talks with the Saudis," he said. "We have a joint interest in the subject of Iran, that it won't become a nuclear threshold state."

He added, "Every country that is under the same threat must find ways to think together on how to cope with that threat. I'm not certain that the enemy of my enemy is always my friend, but I can always think that I can consider working together with them against a common enemy."

Lapid also referred to U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to Israel next month, saying that Israel does not expect the Americans to facilitate a peace deal with Riyadh, but rather that "we expect this from ourselves."

"Israel extends its hand always to anyone in order to achieve lasting peace," Lapid said.

On Monday, a senior administration official said Biden will visit Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia on July 13-16.

The trip, originally slated for June, will be Biden's first visit to the Middle East as president, though he first visited Israel over 50 years ago as a senator and is considered among Israel's most staunch U.S. political allies.

The visit comes as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's year-old coalition faces its most serious crisis yet, though Israel's domestic political situation is unlikely to derail the visit.

Lapid referred to this coalition crisis, and expressed his hopes that the government will not dissolve before Biden's visit. He said that Biden's visit and Israel-U.S. ties transcend politics. "This is our most important partner and friend," he said. "I hope that the government will be there to host [Biden] in July. In any event, I will welcome the president no matter my role."

A senior U.S. official said that Biden "will reaffirm the ironclad U.S. commitment to Israel's security, and deepening cooperation and technology, climate, commerce, trade and other sectors." The president will likely visit areas where an Iron Dome missile defense system battery is deployed, the official said, and will "discuss new innovations between our countries that use laser technologies to defeat missiles and other airborne threats."

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