Biden to avoid handshaking MBS during West Asia trip
Biden's visit to West Asia is one of the roughest patches during his administration, so much so that he used COVID-19 to try and avoid further tarnishing his image by shaking hands with MBS.
US President Joe Biden is set to avoid shaking hands during his tour in West Asia, White House officials said, noting that the decision taken by the US leader to limit his handshakes comes over medical advice he received from his doctor amid a rise in COVID-19 cases.
"We're in a phase of the pandemic right now where we're looking to increase masking, reduce contact to minimize spread. That's the approach we're taking," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday. However, he did note that each individual interaction Biden has could go differently.
Many are saying that the statements coming from the United States are just paving the way for Biden to avoid taking a photo shaking hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman upon landing in Saudi Arabia in a bid to try and salvage whatever is left of his narrative of making the Kingdom "the pariah that they are."
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After offering remarks on the tarmac and bumping fists with Israeli occupation Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Biden was seen shaking hands with former Israeli Prime Ministers Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Biden's PR team must have spent some time brainstorming the act, as they know that the most damaging that could come out of the visit would be that of Biden putting his hand in MBS', especially after the US intelligence community found him to be the one who pulled the strings that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre faced some trouble trying to swat off questions from the press about why Biden, otherwise a handshake-happy President, would keep his hand adhered to his side during his West Asia swing.
"We always, on these trips, take precautions," she said despite Biden warmingly shaking hands with world leaders at the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain.
However Biden chooses to react to Mohammed bin Salman's outstretched hand in Jeddah will be his choice, but rejecting his handshake offer may prove to be expensive for Washington, especially as this tour will see the US leader try and mend ties with Saudi Arabia to persuade Riyadh and other Gulf allies to pump out more oil in the markets as the Biden administration faces mounting criticism over the soaring oil prices.
Biden arrived at Al-Lydd's Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday, where he was received by high-ranking Israeli officials on his first official visit to occupied Palestine as President. He is scheduled to meet with Lapid and other senior Israeli officials on Thursday.
Biden will spend two days in occupied Al-Quds for talks with Israeli officials and then head to the occupied West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday. He will then pack his bags and head to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.