The Latest: Khashoggi’s widow cites Biden commitment on MBS

The Latest on President Joe Biden’s trip to the Mideast (all times local):

WASHINGTON — The widow of Jamal Khashoggi, the U.S.-based writer killed by Saudi government agents four years ago, said Wednesday that she received a commitment that President Joe Biden will bring up the murder when he meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The crown prince, whom Biden will be meeting for the first time in Jeddah on Friday, likely approved...

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The Latest on President Joe Biden’s trip to the Mideast (all times local):

WASHINGTON — The widow of Jamal Khashoggi, the U.S.-based writer killed by Saudi government agents four years ago, said Wednesday that she received a commitment that President Joe Biden will bring up the murder when he meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The crown prince, whom Biden will be meeting for the first time in Jeddah on Friday, likely approved of the killing, according to U.S. intelligence.

Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, the slain writer’s widow, told Spectrum News she received assurances during a meeting with administration officials. “They said so,” she said.

A White House official said Khashoggi’s widow spoke with a senior administration official earlier this week about Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, declined to provide details of the private conversation.

— Aamer Madhani

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JERUSALEM — President Joe Biden says he remains committed to resurrecting the Iran nuclear deal, saying “the only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons.”

Biden spoke to Israel’s Channel 12 TV in an interview broadcast shortly after his arrival in the country on Wednesday at the start of a Middle East tour that will also take him to Saudi Arabia.

Israel was a staunch opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal and welcomed then-President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from it, which led to the deal’s unraveling.

Biden called that decision a “gigantic mistake,” pointing out that Iran had accelerated its nuclear program since the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement. “They’re closer to a nuclear weapon now than they were before,” he said.

Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, though U.N. experts and Western intelligence agencies say Iran had an organized military nuclear program through 2003. The nuclear deal lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for strict limits on and monitoring of its nuclear activities.

Biden reiterated that the U.S. would not allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapon and said it would use military force as a “last resort.” He declined to comment on any discussions with Israel about using military force against Iran.

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JERUSALEM — President Joe Biden says he’ll work with whomever is elected Israel’s next prime minister, even Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he’s had strained relations.

“We’re committed to the state not an individual leader,” Biden said In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12.

Biden noted that he and Netanyahu have known each other for almost 40 years. “We know where we agree, where we disagree we make no bones about it,” Biden said.

“I’m dealing with a democratic state that is going through a decision as to who they’re going to have has their leader and whoever the leader is I’ll work with.”

Biden in the interview also dismissed some Democratic lawmakers who have objected to providing security assistance to Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

“There are few of them,” Biden said. “I think they’re wrong. I think they’re making a mistake. Israel is a democracy. Israel is our ally. Israel is a friend. And I make no apologies for what we’ve provided.”

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JERUSALEM — A Secret Service employee was detained and questioned by Israeli police after being “allegedly involved in a physical encounter,” according to an agency spokesman.

The incident occurred late Monday, before President Joe Biden arrived in the country on Wednesday.

The employee, who was not identified, was released without charges, said the spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi. He has returned to the United States, and “his access to Secret Service systems and facilities was suspended pending further investigation.”

Another incident involving agency employees took place before Biden arrived in South Korea in May.

An agent and an armed physical security specialist were sent home after an alcohol-fueled argument with a taxi driver, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to comment publicly.

Local law enforcement wrote a police report but did not file charges.

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JERUSALEM — President Joe Biden is visiting Israel’s national Holocaust memorial to pay his respects to the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany and collaborators during World War II.

During his stop at Yad Vashem, Biden rekindled the eternal flame of remembrance, laid a wreath and met with two Holocaust survivors — Rena Quint, 86, and Giselle Cycowicz, 95. A children’s choir sang a poem by Hannah Szenes, a female Jewish resistance fighter who was captured by the Nazis in Hungary and executed at the age of 23.

During the wreath laying, Biden held his hand over his heart.

Biden stood solemnly throughout the ceremony but grew animated during his chat with the two women. He listened closely while kneeling on one knee, held their hands, smiled and gave each woman a kiss.

As he wrapped the 10-minute meeting, he said to one of the women. “My mother would say, ‘God love you dear. God love you.’”

Biden was joined by Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, both of whom are children of Holocaust survivors.

Israel was established as a sanctuary for Jews in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust. About 165,000 survivors live in Israel, and Yad Vashem is a standard stop for visiting world leaders.

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s monarch received a phone call from the Palestinian president as Joe Biden begins his two-day visit to Israel.

The customary call, which King Salman has received from other Muslim heads of state, was to congratulate the Saudi leadership on the hajj season in Mecca that just wrapped up and the Eid holidays, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

No further details were provided and there was no indication that President Mahmoud Abbas and King Salman discussed Biden’s visit or any issues related to Palestinian statehood.

In May of last year, the two held a call in which King Salman assured Abbas of Saudi Arabia’s support for the Palestinian cause and condemned Israel’s war in Gaza and attacks on Palestinian worshippers in Al Aqsa, which is located at a site in east Jerusalem that’s holy to both Jews and Muslims.

During his trip to the region, Biden is looking to expand budding ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, which have been quietly growing in recent years amid shared enmity and concerns over Iran and its nuclear ambitions. The Palestinians are concerned about Arab allies embracing Israel without an agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — As President Joe Biden stepped onto the tarmac Wednesday to begin his two-day visit to Israel, he was greeted with a walloping of bad economic data at home.

The image of the president greeting Israeli officials was split-screened with news that surging prices for gas, food and rent catapulted U.S. inflation to a new four-decade peak in June, with prices soaring 9.1% compared with a year earlier.

The White House had tried to prepare the country for the troubling number, with officials saying in recent days most of it was driven by gas prices that have already started to fall from their peak a month ago. But Republicans quickly seized on the report to attack Biden’s economic policies.

Still, the news was likely not a surprise to Biden, as he and a small group of aides are traditionally briefed confidentially on the report the night before it’s released.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — President Joe Biden has opened his visit to Israel with a tour of Israel’s advanced missile-defense systems.

Israel prepared the display at its main international airport, showing off a multilayered system that is capable of intercepting everything from long-range ballistic missiles in space to short-range rockets. The systems have been developed in partnerships with the U.S.

They include the Iron Dome, a rocket defense system that has intercepted thousands of rockets fired by Gaza militants, as well as a new laser-based system called the “Iron Beam.” That system is not yet operational.

Biden was also receiving a classified security briefing from Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz before heading to Jerusalem.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — President Joe Biden said he was seeking “greater peace, greater stability, greater connection” after he landed in Israel on Wednesday for his first trip to the Middle East since taking office.

It’s his 10th visit to the country. His first was in 1973, when he was a first-term U.S. senator from Delaware.

The Israelis rolled out the red carpet for Biden when he arrived on Air Force One in Tel Aviv, and he was greeted by a full array of politicians.

“I’m proud to say that our relationship with the State of Israel is deeper and stronger, in my view, than it’s ever been,” Biden said while wearing sunglasses under the bright sun.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid described Biden as a “great Zionist, and one of the best friends that Israel has ever known.”

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TEL AVIV, Israel — President Joe Biden is six years older than Israel, which was established in 1948, and he’s met every one of the country’s prime ministers since he was first elected as a U.S. senator from Delaware.

His first visit was in 1973, shortly before Arab nations launched a surprise attack to begin the Yom Kippur War, and he sat down with Golda Meir.

In a story that he’s told often, Biden recalls Meir chain smoking cigarettes and showing him maps of the region to explain Israel’s precarious security situation. When the meeting ended, Biden says, she told him that Israelis had a “secret weapon” in their battle for survival — “We have nowhere else to go.”

Several more trips followed over the years, although not every one has gone smoothly. When Biden served as vice president, his 2010 visit was undermined by an announcement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government that Jewish settlements in the West Bank were being expanded.

There’s unlikely to be such friction with Yair Lapid, the current prime minister. However, Lapid only leads an interim government that was formed when the last one collapsed, and elections are being held in November.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — President Joe Biden has arrived in Israel for the first visit to the Middle East of his presidency. It’s a whirlwind four-day trip in which he will hold talks with Israeli, Palestinian, and Saudi Arabian officials.

Biden is participating Wednesday in a formal welcome ceremony in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and will receive a briefing on Israel’s Iron Dome and Iron Beam air defense systems. He’ll later make his way to Jerusalem for a wreath laying ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to Holocaust victims in World War II.

Biden is spending two days in Jerusalem for talks with Israeli leaders before meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday in the West Bank. He then heads to Saudi Arabia.

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An Israeli human rights group has put up billboards in the occupied West Bank with a stark message for President Joe Biden, saying “this is apartheid.”

B’Tselem is among three rights groups that say Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, both in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel itself, amounts to apartheid. Both Israel and the U.S. reject the charge.

B’Tselem put up the billboards in Ramallah, the seat of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, and in Bethlehem, where Biden is to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.

B’Tselem’s executive director, Hagai El-Ad, accused multiple U.S. administrations of tolerating Israeli human rights abuses “without demanding accountability” and urged Washington to change its attitude toward Israel.

“When the attitude changes – so will the regime,” he said.

Biden was expected to land in Israel for a 48-hour visit to the area later Wednesday. He is not expected to offer any major diplomatic initiatives during the visit. He flies to Saudi Arabia on Friday.

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JERUSALEM — The United States and Israel are launching a new strategic high-level dialogue between the countries that will focus on technology.

The new talks were announced in a joint statement from U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday, just hours before Biden was scheduled to arrive in Israel for his first Mideast visit as president.

The partnership is to focus on the use of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and other tech-based solutions, against global challenges such as pandemic preparedness and climate change, the statement said.

The leaders pledged to work together to “advance and protect critical and emerging technologies in accordance with our national interests, democratic principles and human rights, and to address geostrategic challenges.”

On Wednesday, Biden begins his trip to the region in Israel and the occupied West Bank. He is scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia on Friday.

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