A lot of noise for nothing? Biden is not the first US president to fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia
JEDDAH: Like most media frenzies, the one surrounding US President Joe Biden’s “historic first direct flight” from Tel Aviv to Jeddah was greeted with much fanfare at first, but – at least among Saudi journalists – it died down. quickly turned out to be a major case. do for nothing.
It all started with Biden’s statement in a Washington Post op-ed on July 9, before he embarked on his Middle East trip, announcing that “on Friday, I will be the first president to fly from Israel to Jeddah. (sic), in Saudi Arabia. .”
Many US and Israeli media outlets quickly latched onto the phrase as further proof that “normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel” was imminent, a perennial rumor that has taken off.
A follow-up announcement from the White House on July 15 fueled the narrative, quoting the president saying, “Today I will be the first president to fly from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.”
While the statement is accurate in the sense that no previous US president had flown direct from Israel to Jeddah, Biden was certainly not the first to fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia.
Many began to question the limited memory of American and Israeli journalists, who seemed to have ignored or forgotten the fact that it was not until 2008 that another president flew directly to the Kingdom from Israel, but to the capital Riyadh, not to the coastal city of Jeddah.
Indeed, the last president to fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia was George W. Bush, who flew in from Tel Aviv in May 2008, the last year of his second term.
According to media accounts of that trip, when Air Force One landed in the Saudi capital, Bush received a red carpet welcome on the tarmac and was warmly welcomed by Saudi leaders as a military band played the American national anthem.
The Bush White House said the visit was partly to celebrate 75 years of official U.S.-Saudi relations, but the high price of oil ($127 a barrel) was also a factor. Soaring energy costs were proving to be a political headache for the president and a major drain on the US economy, which was experiencing a slowdown that presaged a major recession.
Fourteen years after that visit, another US president claimed he made history with a direct flight, but this one was in the opposite direction. Donald Trump’s Air Force One took off from Riyadh for Tel Aviv in May 2017 on his first overseas trip since taking office.
Five years later, it is the turn of a Democrat to boast of having made a “historic first direct flight” between Israel and a Saudi city.
Several Saudi journalists who covered Biden’s recent visit said they were unsure why the flight had generated so much excitement.
“If this is a tour involving two countries, the first being Israel and the second Saudi Arabia, if not, how was Biden going to come?” asked a reporter.
“As for the Western media’s insinuation that this was another step towards normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel, that is not true because it is not the first time that a such theft happens. But, more importantly, it is overshadowed by the Arab Peace Initiative,” a local newspaper editor said, citing the Saudi peace proposal to Israel that was adopted by the League. Arab in Beirut in 2002.
One thing, however, remains certain: every visit by a US president to Saudi Arabia has been historic in one way or another.