Biden shakes hands with former Israeli PM, begins ‘no handshake' policy just before Saudi meeting

Source: www.foxnews.com : 2022-07-13 21:50:55 : Peter Aitken

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President Biden appeared to quickly drop his “no handshake” policy during his Middle East tour, leading some to speculate that the White House adopted the policy merely to avoid a politically uncomfortable encounter later in the trip. 

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced Wednesday that the president would avoid shaking hands during the four-day trip out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The president appeared to abide by the policy when he arrived in Israel, greeting Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and other officials with fist bumps. 

But not long after that Biden shook hands with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – all while not wearing a facemask or taking COVID-19 precautions of any kind. 

Biden visited Madrid in June to attend a G7 conference during a time when the city’s COVID-19 cases had reached a rolling 7-day average of over 2,000 new cases. During that time, Biden had no problem shaking hands and getting close and personal with a range of leaders from across the globe, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a man who has been condemned for his country’s crackdown on human rights activists, as well as clamping down on press freedom, and the arrest and harassment of journalists.

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The handshake with Netanyahu has led some to believe that the White House policy has nothing to do with COVID-19 and everything to do with avoiding a bad press moment with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. The White House and State Department did not respond to requests for comment or clarification. 

President Joe Biden shakes hands with former Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu despite a White House advisory that the president would avoid handshakes due to COVID-19 concerns. 

President Joe Biden shakes hands with former Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu despite a White House advisory that the president would avoid handshakes due to COVID-19 concerns. 
(Gideon Marcowicz/TPS)

Biden will fly to Jeddah and meet with King Salman and the Crown Prince on Friday, according to the New York Times. The apparent flip-flop on his handshake policy will only heighten attention to how the world leaders will greet each other. 

The White House this week insisted that the trip aimed to “advance American interests,” denying that the president had gone to the Middle East to push leaders in OPEC to increase oil production as the world continues to face a fuel crisis. 

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“I’m saying it’s not, it’s not, it’s not the focus,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday, adding that it is “not… on the agenda.”

“That’s something for OPEC to decide, clearly. Saudi Arabia chairs that, and so, we just want to be very clear on that,” she added.

Biden has already faced incredible scrutiny over his visit to Saudi Arabia, with the Washington Post on Monday publishing an op-ed by Washington Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan in which he said the president’s trip “erodes our moral authority.” 

“When, seeking votes, Biden vowed to make Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a ‘pariah’ for his role in murdering Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the world had every reason to think he meant it,” Ryan wrote in an op-ed on Monday. “So why is President Biden now going to Jiddah on bended knee to shake the ‘pariah’s’ bloodstained hand? Once again, he is seeking votes,” Ryan wrote.

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Khashoggi, a contributor for the Washington Post, was killed in 2018 by Saudi security officials. Documents declassified in Feb. 2021 made clear that the U.S. government blamed the crown prince for the killing. 

“We base this assessment on the crown prince’s control of decision-making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Mohammed bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the crown prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi,” the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) said.

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Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia during his first foreign trip as president and didn’t sour to the Arab nation. Democrats took Trump to task for not taking the killing more seriously.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Timothy Nezrozzi, Greg Norman and Hanna Panreck contributed to this report. 

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