Biden to skip traditional meet-and-greet, handshaking with Israeli officials on tarmac

In a major departure from the standard procedure for visiting dignitaries, Biden will avoid shaking hands and taking photos with Israeli politicians.

By World Israel News Staff

President Joe Biden will not greet or shake hands with more than a handful of Israeli officials on the tarmac after landing in Israel Wednesday afternoon, in a major departure from the standard procedure for visiting dignitaries.

When American presidents have visited Israel in the past, Israeli government officials, including cabinet ministers, heads of security and intelligence agencies,and other VIPs, have lined up on the tarmac to greet and shake hands with the president.

But Biden’s welcoming ceremony this week is set to be markedly different.

Only Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog are expected to greet Biden. Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett may also give a brief speech at the event.

According to a written brief about the event obtained by Hebrew-language news outlets, “because of scheduling pressure, COVID, and the hot weather, the U.S. president will not shake hands with the guests and there will be no opportunity for personal photographs.”

Some Israeli commentators have speculated that the cancellation of the traditional meet-and-greet could be due to political pressure. As Democrats ramp up pressure on Biden to come down tough on Israel, especially regarding the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, shaking hands and taking pictures with right-leaning MKs could lead to political backlash.

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It could also be that the Biden administration is looking to avoid a repeat of a 2017 incident involving then-MK Oren Hazan and then-president Donald Trump.

Although Hazan was not meant to meet or shake hands with Trump, he essentially stormed the tarmac and took a selfie with Trump, which seriously embarrassed the Israeli government at the time.

Beyond the dramatically shortened welcoming ceremony, much of Biden’s schedule remains up in the air. Ynet reported that a final itinerary for the trip – including significant details, such as whether or not Biden will give a speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum – has not yet been shared with the Israelis.

The visit’s limited format has also sparked infighting among Israel’s National Security Council, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry, with most of the disagreements focused around potential photo opportunities and media events. Rapidly shifting decisions and conflicting input from the American side have also increased tensions, a government source told Ynet.

“It’s very difficult to work like this, people are really frustrated,” the source said. “You get somewhere, make a decision, and then someone else comes and cancels everything.”