Eliav Benjamin, head of the Middle East Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, discussed preparations for President Biden's visit to Israel with Radio 103FM.
"First and foremost, this visit symbolizes the strong alliance between the United States and Israel, and President Biden personal commitment to Israel's security. We are in constant contact with the American team to ensure all preparations are made to ensure the visit is a success and is remembered in a very positive way. It is a visit that includes some elements and some sites that the president will also visit. "
Benjamin referred to reports that the Washington will refuse to allow an Israeli representative to join Biden on a visit to the Palestinian Arab hospital in eastern Jerusalem. "I am not aware of a refusal in this regard," he was quoted as saying. "Biden's visit to Augusta Victoria Hospital is important. It seems the [Israeli issue] has not been decided as of yet. I'm not aware of a problem in this area and understand that it is still being discussion"
According to media reports, Interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid intends to welcome Biden with a number of “gestures” that the US administration has requested as a means of “improving the atmosphere” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Biden Administration has announced its intention to re-open the consular building in eastern Jerusalem that was shut down during the Trump Administration, when the US Embassy was relocated to the capital.
The new-old diplomatic installation is slated to serve Arabs only – and would, in everything but name – be an embassy to Palestine: The US recently upgraded the status of the Office for Palestinian Affairs, restructuring the chain of command and removing it from the auspices of the US Embassy in Israel.
Biden has also scheduled a first-of-its-kind visit to eastern Jerusalem, an official visit that has not been coordinated through normal diplomatic channels. A visit of this kind constitutes a violation of US law, which recognizes Jerusalem – in its entirety – as the united capital of Israel, and the government of Israel as the sole recognized sovereign in the city.
The third “gesture” sought by the Biden Administration would see Palestinian Authority Police at Israel’s eastern border: The Biden Administration has asked Israel to allow an official PA presence at the Allenby Crossing, the international border between Israel and Jordan and the gateway to Israel’s Jordan Valley. Reports are that Interim Prime Minister Lapid intends to acquiesce – despite the danger to Israel’s security and the shadow this would cast on Israeli sovereignty.
Recently, a group of Zionist organizations in Israel and abroad joined forces in a campaign calling on the US administration to refrain from exploiting Israel’s unstable political environment to extract far-reaching concessions that would be detrimental to Israel’s vital interests. The campaign also calls on the Israeli government and Interim Prime Minister Lapid not to sell out Israel’s security and sovereignty.
Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, summed up the challenge: “Lapid is expecting a warm embrace from Biden, just like the one he squeezed out of the President of France a few days ago. But the hugs and smiling photo-ops will cost us dearly, and are a cynical exploitation of Israel’s political situation. The three 'good will gestures' Lapid is planning to make in order to give Biden a soft landing on his Middle East junket are drastic, historic concessions that will harm Israel’s security and even worse, may be construed as a recognition of future borders of a Palestinian state.”
“I call on Shaked, Sa'ar, Elkin and Kahana, who put Lapid in the Prime Minister’s Office, to take whatever steps are necessary – immediately - to prevent the caretaker prime minister and his lame duck government from dealing a fatal blow to Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley in exchange for photographs of hugs and smiles with the President of the United States," he was quoted as saying.