Covid or politics? Biden to avoid handshakes in Israel, Saudi Arabia

TEL AVIV: President of the United States Joe Biden will seek to reduce face-to-face contact, such as handshakes, during a visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia this week as part of enhanced Covid-19 precautions, The White House officials said Wednesday.
A clear change in policy may allow Biden to avoid being photographed shaking hands this weekend with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS.
US National Security Adviser: “We’re in a phase of a pandemic where we’re looking at ways to reduce contact and increase face coverings … to minimize the spread” Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One on a flight to Israel when asked about reports that Biden would not shake hands during the trip.
“I can’t talk to … every moment and every interaction and every movement. It’s just a general principle we’re applying,” he added.
Biden, who has called the Saudi government a “bad guy” for its role in the 2018 murders of Washington Post journalist and political rival Jamal Khashoggi, is reluctant to meet with the crown prince, whom intelligence agents know The US blamed the killing, during his stop this week. Saudi Arabic.
“The White House is doing its best to avoid a photo of Biden shaking hands with the Crown Prince, especially after a Washington Post editorial condemning the meeting with MbS. COVID is a simple excuse but it won’t change reality. of the meeting,” said Bruce Riedel, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Biden departed for Israel late Tuesday after spending part of the late afternoon and early evening shaking hands with numerous people on the South Lawn of the White House during a congressional picnic.
Biden held hands with the Israeli delegation upon arrival, but then spoke closely with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid as the two leaders stood shoulder to shoulder, arms behind each other’s backs.
The US President shook hands with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now the leader of the opposition, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
The White House on Tuesday urged Americans over 50 to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because of the fast-spreading disease Omicron Subvariable BA.5 is applied throughout the United States.
Biden is due to take part in a bilateral meeting with the king and crown prince of Saudi Arabia on Friday, but Biden in recent weeks has sought to highlight the meeting with a host of Gulf leaders.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said no press conference was scheduled during Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

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