US President Joe Biden plans to ask “tough questions” as a “friend” to Israel when he spends his Wednesday in Tel Aviv — a trip meant as a forceful public show of support, but also a push for easing a growing humanitarian crisis.
Biden will first meet with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a restricted bilateral meeting, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One in a preview of Wednesday’s trip. That meeting will later broaden to include other US officials and the Israeli War Cabinet.
In those meetings, Kirby said the president is “going to get a sense from the Israelis about the situation on the ground, and, more critically, their objectives, their plans, their intentions in the days and weeks ahead.”
Biden “Will be asking some tough questions. He’ll be asking them as a friend — as a true friend of Israel, but he’ll be asking some questions of them,” Kirby said.
Pressed later on what those tough questions would be, Kirby said it would not be “adversarial” but rather, “in the spirit of a true, deep friend of Israel.”
The president will “make it clear that we continue to want to see this conflict not widen, not expand, not deepen,” Kirby said, pointing to a “strong signal” from the US with additional military capability. Biden is also expected to discuss Israel’s needs and “make it clear that we will do everything we can to meet those needs,” Kirby said.
Hostages held by Hamas will also be a key topic of discussion, Kirby said, as Biden seeks to find out more from his Israeli counterparts about “where they are, what condition they are in, if they are being moved.”
And he will make the case for the “sustained” flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza, Kirby added.
Later Wednesday, Biden will meet with some families impacted by the violence of the past week, including some who have lost loved ones in Israel, and some who “still don’t know the fate of their loved ones.” Some of those family members have loved ones who are being held hostage, though it was not immediately clear whether they are Americans.
After that, Biden will make public remarks in Tel Aviv, which will be covered by traveling press. And he is also expected to “speak directly” with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
Though Biden’s trip to Amman, Jordan, was canceled, Biden is expected to speak with leaders in the region on Wednesday night as he returns to Washington.
“The President intends to speak with both (Palestinian Authority) President Mahmoud Abbas and (Egyptian) President (Abdel Fattah el-) Sisi on the flight home,” Kirby said.