Political circles in the region, both Israeli and Arab, are preparing for US President Joe Biden’s visit. President Biden’s schedule is expected to include announcing Israeli-Saudi normalisation, a request for the latter to pump more oil into the global market and the establishment of a military NATO-like alliance to counter the Iranian influence.
While his visit to Israel aims to confirm his commitment to its security, his arrival in Saudi Arabia aims to promote immediate US interests, whether that is to influence oil prices, restore America’s position in the Middle East or expand regional security coordination to confront Iran. By visiting the Palestinian Authority, the US administration will reaffirm its commitment to a two-state solution, without expectations of a political breakthrough.
In recent days, Israeli research centres and media outlets published a number of articles and papers discussing the possible benefits Israel will gain from the visit. They also discussed the list of requests being prepared covering a number of avenues; political, economic, security and military.
Israelis are well aware that Biden’s visit has internal political significance that’s no less important than its external and international aspects. In November 2022, midterm elections for the Senate and House of Representatives will be held in the United States. Biden and the Democrats’ position is not that great, his popularity stands at 40 per cent, not high enough to maintain power over both houses. In the meantime, US elections history shows that the party representing the White House usually loses seats in the midterm elections, when people express their keenness on the government’s performance in its first two years in office.
Biden has a great interest in visiting Israel before the midterm elections to enhance support for Democratic candidates. His visit will help deliver a message to Israel and the Middle East that the United States does not intend to leave the region, and is committed to protecting its allies.
Meanwhile, Israeli circles believe a major failure in the upcoming congressional elections may affect the 2024 presidential elections.
Israelis believe that among the goals of Biden’s visit is the announcement of the resumption of financial support to the Palestinians to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. This is along with improving bilateral relations between Washington and Tel Aviv, and providing substantial military aid to Israel. The energy crisis and the future of the relationship with Saudi Arabia is also an important factor.
An Arab-Israeli air defence alliance that includes Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf states is also expected to be announced, with the aim of combating the threat of Iranian ballistic missiles and drones. This alliance will include joint intelligence cooperation and an early warning system to identify and intercept Iranian sea missiles.
Israelis question whether Biden can succeed in achieving all these goals during this visit. Palestinians may not be satisfied with resuming only financial support – despite its importance – in light of Biden’s failure to force Israel to pursue a political path, or at least stop the settlement expansion in the West Bank, that has not slowed ahead of the visit.
While Israel is governed by a caretaker government, it is unlikely that agreements can be signed. What Tel Aviv considers most important, however, is that progress is made with Saudi Arabia. Israel hopes to continue its security and military with the kingdom, under the table, with American supervision.
One of the most important goals of the visit, Israelis believe, is to reduce oil prices through a clear commitment from Saudi Arabia to increase production over time. The US administration believes that such a commitment will provide long-term stability.
Israel understands very well the intentions of the American administration to share the burdens of dealing with Iran with the countries of the region, preventing them from heading in a direction that is inconsistent with American interests.
Biden’s visit coincides with the Israeli preparations for a fifth round of early elections in four years as well as the congressional midterm elections, and this coincidence may not be in the interest of Biden, who set the date of his visit before Naftali Bennett’s resignation and the dissolution of the Israeli Knesset.
However, after two failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States is no longer able to act alone as a global “policeman”.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.