Covid or politics?  Biden avoids handshake in Israel and Saudi Arabia

Biden avoids handshake in Israel and Saudi Arabia

The White House recently announced that US President Joe Biden would try to limit physical contact, such as avoiding handshakes during his trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia this week due to concerns about rising covid-19 cases.

The first signs of this new White House policy were revealed andn Biden’s arrival in Israel this Wednesday. When he landed, instead of shaking hands, the US president bumped his fists in greeting with acting Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog and former Prime Minister Naftali Benet, who came to meet him at Ben Gurion Airport. near Tel-Aviv.

Nevertheless, both Benet and Herzog went to shake hands with Biden and immediately they rectified to show the fist. Later, at the welcome ceremony, Biden greeted different members of the Israeli delegation and did shake hands for several seconds with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom she has meetings scheduled tomorrow.

Later in Jerusalem, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Biden took the hand and kissed the cheeks of the survivors Rena Quint, 86, and Giselle Cycowicz, about 95. “Did you see the president hug me?” Quint asked. “He asked my permission to kiss me and he kept holding my hand and told us not to touch him.”

This Friday, Biden will meet with the crown prince and de facto governor of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin Salmán, and King Salman bin Abdulaziz in the city of Jeddah. When asked by the press, the White House spokesman assured that this policy has been taken mainly to protect the president’s health and that it is not a strategy to avoid a photo of the president shaking hands with Bin Salmán.

It must be remembered that US intelligence holds Bin Salman responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, and they sanctioned more than 70 Saudis, not including the prince himself.. Biden seeks to restore the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia after a rocky start to the presidency.

As a candidate, Biden had promised to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” nation for its human rights record. The president’s plan to meet with bin Salmán has been criticized by activists who accuse Biden of reneging on his promise to make human rights a central pillar of his foreign policy.

Ben Oakley
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