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News > World

Biden's Mideast Trip Not Expected to Prompt Major Breakthroughs

  • U.S. President Joe Biden, 2022.

    U.S. President Joe Biden, 2022. | Photo: Twitter/ @soitiz

Published 12 July 2022

The U.S. President's Middle East tour is expected to touch upon key regional issues, mainly the Iran nuclear deal, the Israel-Saudi Arabia relationship, and the Palestinian issue.

Political analysts in Israel pinned scant hope on U.S. President Joe Biden's upcoming first visit to the Middle East for achieving tangible breakthroughs on the major issues in the region. 


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Biden's visit to Israel, the first stop of his Middle East tour starting on Wednesday, is expected to touch upon key regional issues, mainly the Iran nuclear deal, the Israel-Saudi Arabia relationship, and the Palestinian issue.


Israeli analysts predicted that the Iranian nuclear talks will be the focus of the Israel-U.S. talks during Biden's visit, noting Israel's position will not sway the U.S. policy or change the course of the Iranian nuclear talks.

Israel, which sees Iran as its arch-enemy, has been one of the fiercest opponents of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Israel hailed former U.S. President Donald Trump's move to unilaterally pull Washington out of the deal in 2018.

But the U.S. policy on Iran flip-flopped again when Biden took office in 2021 and started the effort to restore the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, despite Israel's strong opposition. Eight rounds of talks have been held in Austria's capital Vienna since last year by Iran and major signatory parties on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact, with the United States being indirectly involved.

A final deal could be reached at any time if Washington or Tehran makes compromises on a few remaining key differences. Nimrod Goren, head of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said the attitude of Israel is unlikely to affect Biden's decision on the JCPOA.

"The Israelis want to be heard and the Americans are willing to listen. No one thinks, however, that this will have a major impact on the negotiations" on reviving the Iranian nuclear deal, said Goren.


Biden's four-day Middle East tour will also take him to Saudi Arabia, which has raised speculation about a possible breakthrough in the Israeli-Saudi ties. In an opinion piece published on Saturday by The Washington Post, Biden said he will be the first U.S. president to fly from Israel to Jeddah of Saudi Arabia, adding the trip will be "a small symbol of the budding relations and steps toward normalization between Israel and the Arab world."

But analysts believe a real breakthrough in the Israeli-Saudi ties is still far beyond the horizon despite Biden's visit, given the deep differences between the two regional powers. "We will not see something similar to the Abraham Accords. We will likely see a step as part of a gradual process that is already happening," Goren said.

Saudi Arabia, which officially holds a supportive stance for the Palestinians, did not participate in the U.S.-sponsored Abraham Accords that normalized in 2020 Israel's ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two Gulf Arab countries. Morocco and Sudan later also normalized their ties with Israel.

Analysts noted that the ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which have allegedly behind-the-scenes cooperations in recent years, especially on the front of countering Iran, are likely to receive a boost from Biden's visit. But they cautioned that the detente between the two regional powers has been mainly driven by their own interests and the U.S. effect should not be exaggerated.


Another issue that will come up during Biden's Israel visit is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although sidelined in recent years, it will be discussed in various meetings. "The U.S. is trying to contain and manage the conflict," said Jonathan Rynhold, chairman of the Department of Political Studies of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at the Bar-Ilan University.

"The Americans are aware that the lack of a horizon on the Palestinian side leads to tension. Strategically, Biden wants to keep open the option of a two-state solution, and keep things going forward," he noted.

However, political instability in Israel and the internal Palestinian rift make the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks unfeasible. Israeli analysts noted that Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is facing new elections in November, will tread carefully on the highly contentious issue.

Despite having openly expressed his support for the two-state solution, Lapid argued that the solution, which allows an independent Palestinian state to form, is not achievable at the current stage. The tension between the Israelis and Palestinians has been rising over the past few months as a series of fatal attacks in Israel set off almost daily Israeli raids to arrest Palestinian suspects in the West Bank.

Lapid held a phone talk with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, a day after Abbas' meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Ramallah to discuss security coordination. The two sides apparently tried to prevent the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian tension ahead of Biden's visit.

"The gestures to the Palestinians will not be announced by Lapid, but by Biden... so that Lapid does not appear to be making any concessions to the Palestinians," said Goren.

Talal Oukal, a Gaza-based political analyst, said Biden is aware that the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not yet ripe for launching a peace process in the region.

"This issue does not constitute any priority in U.S. foreign policy, in terms of several considerations, including the failure of previous U.S. governments in this test," he said.

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