‘Zionist’ Joe Biden arrives in Israel, kicking off Mideast tour

‘You don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist.’ Air Force One lands at Ben Gurion Airport, as President Joe Biden begins his first visit to the Jewish state since taking office.

By World Israel News Staff

Air Force One touched down at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod Wednesday afternoon, bearing President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and other Biden administration officials for the president’s first trip to Israel since taking office.

Israeli leaders, including President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid, held a scaled-down reception for the presidential delegation on the tarmac, at the request of the Biden administration, which cited coronavirus concerns in its request to scrap the traditional hand-shaking and photo ops upon arrival.

Prime Minister Lapid and President Biden both addressed the gathering, with Biden recalling his past nine visits to Israel and declaring himself a Zionist.

“My first visit was as a young senator from Delaware in 1973, just a few weeks before the Yom Kippur War. I had the privilege of spending time with Prime Minister Golda Meir.”

“I was sitting next to one of her aides, his name was Rabin. I look back on it all now, and I realize that I had the great honor of living part of this great history of” Israel.”

“You need not be a Jew to be a Zionist. The fact is that, since then, I’ve known every single prime minister, and it has been an honor. I’ve formed a strong working relationship with each of them. And now, this is my tenth visit.”

“Every chance to visit this great country, where the ancient roots of the Jewish people date back to biblical times, is a blessing, because the connection between the Israeli people and the American people is bone deep.”

“In generation after generation that connection grows, we invest in each other. We dream together. We’re part of what has always been the objective we both had. I’ve part of that as a senator, as the Vice President, and quite frankly before that, having been raised by a righteous Christian, when we had dinner at our table every night before he went back to work.”

Biden recalled his father’s tableside discussions on World War II and the Holocaust.

“He taught us all about what happened in the Holocaust. Why weren’t the tracks bombed, why did we not – why, why, why. He imbued in us a sense of the obligation that we all have.”

“Now, as president, I am proud to say that our relationship with the State of Israel is deeper and stronger, in my view, than it has ever been.”

The president said his visit this week reaffirms “the unshakable commitment to Israel’s security, including partnering with Israel on the most cutting edge defense systems in the world.”

Biden noted that following his address on the tarmac, he would join with Israeli officials for a briefing on Israeli missile and rocket defense systems “including U.S. support for the Iron Dome, and Israel’s new laser-enabled system, called the ‘Iron Beam’.”

“We’re going to deepen our connection in science and innovation, and address global challenges through the new strategic high-level dialogue on technology.”

“We will continue to advance Israel’s integration into the region, and expand emerging forms of engagement.”

Turning to relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Biden acknowledged that no diplomatic breakthrough is likely in the near future, while reaffirming his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“We will discuss my continued support – even though I know it is not in the near term – a two-state solution. It remains, in my view, the best way to ensure the, in equal measure, of freedom, prosperity, and democracy for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Prime Minister Lapid welcomed Biden to Israel, calling his visit “historic” and “deeply personal.” Lapid lauded Biden as a Zionist and friend of Israel, before laying out the agenda for talks with the president.

“It is historic because it expresses the unbreakable bond between our two countries. Our commitment to shared values: democracy, freedom, and the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own.”

“It is also a personal visit, because your relationship with Israel has always been personal. You once defined yourself as a Zionist. You said that you don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.”

“During your visit, we will discuss matters of national security. We will discuss building a new security and economy architecture with the nations of the Middle East, following the Abraham Accords and the achievements of the Negev Summit. And we will discuss the need to renew a strong global coalition that will stop the Iranian nuclear program.”

Biden’s Israeli counterpart, Prsident Herzog, compared Biden to the biblical Joseph, calling him a “visionary.”

“The people of Israel welcome you to the Holy Land with open arms and joyous hearts, as Joseph son of Jacob who sought out his brothers. Here, Mr. President, you are truly amongst family. Like the biblical Joseph, you are both a visionary and a leader, committed to advancing the United States of America, the Middle East, the world at large, and the State of Israel.”

“This historic visit reflects the deep partnership our nations share: a partnership rooted in our shared commitment to democracy, justice, and freedom, tolerance, security, and peace. The State of Israel in which you just arrived, is a successful, innovative nation, which contributes to tikkun olam, to healing the world—through science and medicine, water and food technology, climate innovation and so much more.”

After the welcoming ceremony on the tarmac, President Biden’s motorcade left for a tour of the Israeli military’s air defense network. Biden will be accompanied by Prime Minister Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz for the tour and briefing.

The president is then slated to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Museum, at which time he and the American delegation will meet with two Holocaust survivors.