Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday called for peace with Saudi Arabia and normalized ties with Arab nations ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden‘s planned Mideast trip this week.
Lapid noted that during the visit, Biden will be the first American president to fly from Israel directly to Saudi Arabia.
“From Jerusalem, the president’s plane will fly to Saudi Arabia,” Lapid said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, the Jerusalem Post reported. “He will carry with him a message of peace and hope from us.”
Israel, he said, “extends its hand to all the countries of the region and calls on them to build ties with us, establish relations with us and change history for our children.”
Lapid also called Biden “one of the closest friends that Israel has ever had in American politics” and said that his meeting with the president would focus on the threat of a nuclear Iran.
“Israel, for its part, reserves full freedom of action — political and operational — in the fight against the Iranian nuclear program,” Lapid said, according to The Times of Israel.
After talks with Israeli leaders and Palestinian representatives in the occupied West Bank, Biden will move on to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with regional leaders as part of a Gulf Cooperation Council summit along with Iraq, Egypt and Jordan. The GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Lapid’s remarks came just hours after the Washington Post published an op-ed from Biden in which called his direct Jerusalem-to-Saudi Arabia flight “a small symbol of the budding relations and steps toward normalization between Israel and the Arab world, which my administration is working to deepen and expand.”
“In Jiddah, leaders from across the region will gather, pointing to the possibility of a more stable and integrated Middle East, with the United States playing a vital leadership role,” the president wrote.
A more secure and integrated Middle East “benefits Americans in many ways,” he asserted, while noting that waterways in the region “are essential to global trade and the supply chains we rely on.”
“Its energy resources are vital for mitigating the impact on global supplies of Russia’s war in Ukraine,” Biden wrote.
“And a region that’s coming together through diplomacy and cooperation — rather than coming apart through conflict — is less likely to give rise to violent extremism that threatens our homeland.”
“Compared to 18 months ago, the region is less pressurized and more integrated. Former rivals have reestablished relations. Joint infrastructure projects are forging new partnerships,” the president wrote.