The murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi took center stage when US President Joseph Biden and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) met during one of the stops of the Democratic leader's crusade to build bridges across the region.
Air Force One had landed in the western coastal city of Jeddah from Israel, making Biden the first US leader to travel that route nonstop, while then President Donald Trump had flown in the opposite sense in 2017.
Just before this trip, Israel had said it had no objection to the transfer of two strategic islets to Saudi Arabia, which in return announced the opening of its airspace to all airlines, including Israeli ones.
After two days of openly warm exchanges with the Israeli Prime Minister and his more austere meeting with the leader of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Saudi Arabia was a more complex destination due to the country's oil wealth coupled with its poor reputation regarding its respect for human rights.
Biden had already promised PNA leader Mahmoud Abbas that an independent state awaited the Palestinian people because my commitment to the two-state solution along the 1967 borders has not changed.
The US head of state stressed that the Palestinian people have a right to a state of their own, one that is independent, sovereign, vital, and endowed with territorial continuity.
I realize that the two-state goal looks remote when outrageous things, like restrictions on movement or daily concerns for the safety of their children, are real and immediate, he added.
I am announcing today that I have earmarked US$ 200 million from the Unrwa refugee agency and another US$ 100 million for the Palestinian health network in East Jerusalem. This is the time to strengthen Palestinian institutions, Biden went on.
During his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Biden discussed the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and reiterated that the United States will continue to support Ukraine and its people.
The encounter lasted noticeably longer than planned as both leaders focused their talks on Iran's military capabilities. Iran is not just a threat to Israel, but to the entire world, Biden stressed.
Preventing Iran from obtaining the nuclear weapon is vital to global security, he added. However, he made it clear that we are waiting for a response from Iran on the nuclear deal [and] we will not wait forever.
I will never forget what Golda Meir said to me the first time I visited Israel in 1973 and I was a young senator: 'Israel has a secret weapon and that is that we have nowhere else to go.'
The US has no buts for Israel's security, Biden said at the end of his meeting with Lapid.
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