Joe Biden
Joe Biden Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

President Joe Biden is not preparing any new Middle East peace initiatives, a top administration official said Wednesday, just ahead of Biden’s arrival in Israel.

Speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the president was “heartened” by the renewal of contact between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and would encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to work together towards a two-state solution, while declining to promote any specific plan aimed at resuming negotiations.

“The president will make clear his long-standing commitment… to a two-state solution, which he believes is the best path to a democratic viable Jewish state of Israel, and a Palestinian state where Palestinians can live in freedom and dignity.”

“He is also mindful of the challenges that have existed for many years in terms of moving that peace process forward. He was heartened by the recent steps, including the phone call between Prime Minister Lapid and President Abbas.”

“There has not been contact between an Israeli prime minister and the president of the Palestinian Authority in several years before that call. That is a positive step. The engagement between Defense Minister Gantz and President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] as well.”

“These are steps that he would like to encourage both sides to build on, but he won’t be making formal proposals for some new peace initiative. What he will do is try to encourage both sides to find a pathway where, step-by-step, they move closer towards a vision that works both for Israelis and Palestinians and for the region as a whole.”

Biden will speak with Israeli leaders about the death in May of Arab American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a firefight between Israeli soldiers and Islamic Jihad terrorists in Jenin, Sullivan said.

The president will also discuss the planned reopening of the American consulate in Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority.

Sullivan refused to say, however, whether Biden will issue a condemnation of Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria.

Early Wednesday morning, President Biden departed from Andrews Air Force Base on Air Force One. The flight is expected to arrive in Israel at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, beginning Biden’s first visit to the Jewish state since taking office last year.

Biden will remain in Israel until Friday, when he will depart for Saudi Arabia for the second leg of his Middle East tour.

According to a report by Yedioth Aharanoth Wednesday morning, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, Anne Neuberger, will join the presidential delegation upon its arrival in Israel, accompanying President Biden from Wednesday afternoon till his departure on Friday.