Biden returning to Israel 6 years after diplomatic row over building

JERUSALEM (JTA) – U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden will visit Israel for the first time since a 2010 trip set off a diplomatic row over Israeli building in eastern Jerusalem.

Biden is scheduled to arrive for a two-day visit on March 8, and will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, as well as with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the White House said in a statement issued Wednesday.

“His arrival will include leaving the plane, a red carpet and handshakes. There will be no welcoming ceremony and no speeches,” according to a statement issued Wednesday by Israel’s Government Press Office.

During Biden’s 2010 visit, Israel announced plans to authorize 1,600 units in a Jewish neighborhood of predominantly Arab eastern Jerusalem.

On Monday, the Hebrew-language news website NRG reported that unnamed senior Obama administration officials have appealed to Israeli public figures and government officials to refrain from announcing any new building in Jerusalem or the West Bank during the Biden visit. An unnamed U.S. official also reportedly told NRG, “Building for the city’s Arab sector would be welcomed.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month before the visit was finalized that “Vice-President Biden is a welcome guest in Israel anytime he decides to come here.” Biden and Netanyahu met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January.

Prior to visiting Israel, Biden will travel on March 5 to the United Arab Emirates, where he will meet with its crown prince and prime minister. After leaving Israel, Biden is scheduled to travel on March 10 to Amman, Jordan, where he will meet with King Abdullah II and visit U.S. and Jordanian troops training together.

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