The Latest: Biden inspects missile-defense in Israel visit


By The Associated Press



The Latest on President Joe Biden’s trip to the Mideast (all times local):

TEL AVIV, Israel — President Joe Biden has opened his visit to Israel with a tour of Israel’s advanced missile-defense systems.

Israel prepared the display at its main international airport, showing off a multilayered system that is capable of intercepting everything from long-range ballistic missiles in space to short-range rockets. The systems have been developed in partnerships with the U.S.

They include the Iron Dome, a rocket defense system that has intercepted thousands of rockets fired by Gaza militants, as well as a new laser-based system called the “Iron Beam.” That system is not yet operational.

Biden was also receiving a classified security briefing from Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz before heading to Jerusalem.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — President Joe Biden said he was seeking “greater peace, greater stability, greater connection” after he landed in Israel on Wednesday for his first trip to the Middle East since taking office.

It’s his 10th visit to the country. His first was in 1973, when he was a first-term U.S. senator from Delaware.

The Israelis rolled out the red carpet for Biden when he arrived on Air Force One in Tel Aviv, and he was greeted by a full array of politicians.

“I’m proud to say that our relationship with the State of Israel is deeper and stronger, in my view, than it’s ever been,” Biden said while wearing sunglasses under the bright sun.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid described Biden as a “great Zionist, and one of the best friends that Israel has ever known.”

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TEL AVIV, Israel — President Joe Biden is six years older than Israel, which was established in 1948, and he’s met every one of the country’s prime ministers since he was first elected as a U.S. senator from Delaware.

His first visit was in 1973, shortly before Arab nations launched a surprise attack to begin the Yom Kippur War, and he sat down with Golda Meir.

In a story that he’s told often, Biden recalls Meir chain smoking cigarettes and showing him maps of the region to explain Israel’s precarious security situation. When the meeting ended, Biden says, she told him that Israelis had a “secret weapon” in their battle for survival — “We have nowhere else to go.”

Several more trips followed over the years, although not every one has gone smoothly. When Biden served as vice president, his 2010 visit was undermined by an announcement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government that Jewish settlements in the West Bank were being expanded.

There’s unlikely to be such friction with Yair Lapid, the current prime minister. However, Lapid only leads an interim government that was formed when the last one collapsed, and elections are being held in November.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — President Joe Biden has arrived in Israel for the first visit to the Middle East of his presidency. It’s a whirlwind four-day trip in which he will hold talks with Israeli, Palestinian, and Saudi Arabian officials.

Biden is participating Wednesday in a formal welcome ceremony in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and will receive a briefing on Israel’s Iron Dome and Iron Beam air defense systems. He’ll later make his way to Jerusalem for a wreath laying ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to Holocaust victims in World War II.

Biden is spending two days in Jerusalem for talks with Israeli leaders before meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday in the West Bank. He then heads to Saudi Arabia.

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An Israeli human rights group has put up billboards in the occupied West Bank with a stark message for President Joe Biden, saying “this is apartheid.”

B’Tselem is among three rights groups that say Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, both in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel itself, amounts to apartheid. Both Israel and the U.S. reject the charge.

B’Tselem put up the billboards in Ramallah, the seat of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, and in Bethlehem, where Biden is to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.

B’Tselem’s executive director, Hagai El-Ad, accused multiple U.S. administrations of tolerating Israeli human rights abuses “without demanding accountability” and urged Washington to change its attitude toward Israel.

“When the attitude changes – so will the regime,” he said.

Biden was expected to land in Israel for a 48-hour visit to the area later Wednesday. He is not expected to offer any major diplomatic initiatives during the visit. He flies to Saudi Arabia on Friday.

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JERUSALEM — The United States and Israel are launching a new strategic high-level dialogue between the countries that will focus on technology.

The new talks were announced in a joint statement from U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday, just hours before Biden was scheduled to arrive in Israel for his first Mideast visit as president.

The partnership is to focus on the use of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and other tech-based solutions, against global challenges such as pandemic preparedness and climate change, the statement said.

The leaders pledged to work together to “advance and protect critical and emerging technologies in accordance with our national interests, democratic principles and human rights, and to address geostrategic challenges.”

On Wednesday, Biden begins his trip to the region in Israel and the occupied West Bank. He is scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia on Friday.

By The Associated Press