Unlike some of his predecessors, Biden has yet to appoint a special envoy to the Middle East one year into his presidency. What does this say about the importance he attaches to solving the Middle East conflict?
If the US wants to get something from Israel regarding a political solution for the Palestinians, what can Biden offer in return?
Is Israel likely to make any gestures towards the Palestinians ahead of Biden’s trip?
Israelis are newly focused on another election, their fifth in less than four years. Even though the new acting prime minister, Yair Lapid, is more moderate on the Palestinian issue than either outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett or his longtime predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli election campaigns are not a time when gestures to the Palestinians are most likely.
Biden is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition. Since Netanyahu is strongly associated with the Trump presidency, how much of a setback would it be for the Biden administration to find Netanyahu installed again as Israel’s prime minister, if at all?
Shireen Abu Akleh’s tragic death remains a subject of concern for the US because she was a US citizen and because of the priority placed on journalists being able to do their jobs safely. While the outcome of the US investigation about who was responsible for her killing was inconclusive [but added that Israeli military gunfire was “likely responsible” for her death], the Biden administration continues to push for accountability. The subject is not going away, although neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are likely to be satisfied with the US position.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Family of slain Palestinian-American journalist demands meeting with Biden
The family of slain Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday sent a strongly worded letter to United States President Joe Biden accusing the US government of “an apparent effort to undermine our efforts towards justice and accountability,” and demanding a meeting with the President during his visit to the region this week.
- Background: Abu Akleh was shot dead in May while covering an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin. Several news organizations, including CNN, as well as the United Nations, published investigations into her death concluding that the bullet that killed her was most likely fired from an Israeli soldier’s gun. Earlier this month, the Palestinian Authority handed over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh to the US. It was examined by Israeli experts with US army officials present, according to an Israeli army statement. The US State Department said it “could not reach a definitive conclusion” regarding who fired the fatal bullet but that gunfire from Israeli army positions “was likely responsible.”
- Why it matters: The Abu Akleh family’s letter concluded with an appeal to Biden, asking that he “meet with us during your upcoming visit and hear directly from us about our concerns and demands for justice.” At Friday’s White House briefing, spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said she had not read the family’s letter and would not be drawn on any possible meeting, but added, “we hear their concerns, we feel their pain.”
Biden defends decision to visit Saudi Arabia
- Background: The President’s visit has drawn criticism given that US intelligence has deemed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for ordering the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi (bin Salman has denied involvement). As a candidate for president, Biden had pledged to make the kingdom a “pariah.”
- Why it matters: The trip comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine has skyrocketed oil prices and disrupted global trade. Biden said he will be focused on a more integrated and stable Middle East, calling the region “essential to global trade and the supply chains we rely on” while also noting how critical Middle Eastern energy supplies are in light of sanctions on Russia.
Iran says the US-backed regional military alliance will increase tensions
A US-backed Israeli-Arab military alliance will only exacerbate regional tensions, the Iranian foreign ministry said on Saturday as US President Joe Biden gears up for a visit to the Middle East.
- Background: Israel is working with regional partners on an air defense alliance led by the US, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said last month. The air defense systems would defend against rockets, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, Gantz said. Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Saturday the plan was a “provocative move” and that Iran sees it “as a threat against its national security,” according to the state news agency IRNA. Kaani added that the US is raising the issue “with the aim of sowing the seeds of discord and spreading Iranophobia among regional countries,” added IRNA.
- Why it matters: The US has been eager to reassure its Middle East allies of its determination to combat attacks by Iran or its armed proxies in the region. But Middle Eastern nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, have expressed concern over an emboldened Iran if sanctions are lifted after a possible nuclear deal with Tehran.
A social media campaign urging Egypt’s government and internet providers to offer unlimited internet access on home services has been trending, with many expressing outrage over usage quotas and slow speeds.
Egypt’s major internet providers offer limited home-service data bundles at varying speeds with usage caps. Many countries in the region removed data caps for home usage years ago.
Despite the restrictions, the country of about 100 million has high internet penetration.
The ministry has also said that major investments are underway to improve broadband infrastructure.
Internet access was pivotal in Egypt ahead of the 2011 uprisings, when online rallying played a key role in the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak.
Tweet of the day
United States ambassador to Algeria Elizabeth Aubin found a quirky way to wish Muslims a happy Eid Al Adha last weekend: she went to a cattle market to haggle for a sacrificial goat.
In a video posted on her Twitter account, she and her husband Daniel can be seen arguing with a seller in Algerian Arabic, dressed up in traditional gear. “She’s in charge,” Daniel shrugs when the ambassador insists on buying a goat with horns.
Eid, which fell on Saturday, is marked by Muslims with the sacrifice of animals for distribution to the poor.