The most striking image of U.S. President Joe Biden's Middle East trip was his fist bump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. It was such an adorable sight. Biden, who seemed so far removed from the "I will make Saudi Arabia a pariah" mood, was in a state of "I am indebted to you". Prince Salman, who was said to have not even been on the phone with Biden, was more in the mood of "there, there."
In U.S. media, it was said that Biden would avoid even being in the same frame with Prince bin Salman. Yet, Biden posed with Prince not once, but several times. According to the political elites representing the American establishment, the United States should stay away from policies that would push its oil and gas-rich allies in the Middle East toward the arms of China and Russia. Biden, on the other hand, promised to promote "human rights" and "democracy" in foreign policy. At the "Democracy Summit" hosted by the U.S. last year, Biden spoke of the "Autocracies-Democracies" confrontation. By inviting many countries with bad records on democracy and human rights to the Summit, the Biden Administration showed that this wasn't really a confrontation.
The U.S.'s rhetoric does not go beyond masking the "great power rivalry" with China. The geo-political, and geo-economic competition takes precedence over everything else. Biden met with leaders representing Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Iraq, and Egypt in Jeddah. In that family photo, too, Biden was in the same frame with MBS and General El-Sisi. Except for Iraq, the others were on the list of those not invited to the so-called 'Democracy Summit'.
Biden said at the "Jeddah Summit" that the U.S. would not abandon the Middle East, and that they would not leave a vacuum for China and Russia to fill in this region. Another thing Biden expected of the Saudis was that they would ramp up oil production. Most Americans don't understand why Biden asked the Saudis instead of increasing oil production in the reserve-rich United States. Republican Senator Rand Paul stressed on Sunday that Biden should try to increase oil production at home rather than begging the Saudis to increase their oil supply. To Paul, what Biden did was embarrassing.
The first leg of Biden's visit was Israel. During the welcome, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid presented Biden as a "Great Zionist" and "Israel's best friend ever". If Trump had been in Biden's place and Netanyahu had been Lapid's, these words would undoubtedly have been lavished in the same tone upon Trump. Biden took an approach that largely followed Trump's Israel policy. As in the Trump era, the number of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands, especially in the West Bank, increased during the Biden era.
Biden entered Israel in 2010 as the Veep. The Israeli Government had declared new illegal settlements while Biden was in Israel. This situation created tension between the Obama administration and Israel. This time, Biden's foreign policy team was much more careful. According to U.S. media reports, a high-level official from the U.S. Department of State went to Israel before the visit and asked the Israeli government not to make any illegal settlement announcement during Biden's visit. In other words, the announcements were requested to be postponed.
Israel's U.S. policy has traditionally been to lobby both parties. This distance deteriorated under Netanyahu and Trump, leading to a standoff between Israel and the Democrats. Like Trump and Netanyahu, Lapid and Biden want to be a "good couple". That's probably why Biden didn't say a word about illegal settlements either.
Israel's illegal settlements are "contrary" to the official U.S.policy. Of course, this is always a so-called policy. Biden has been in politics for nearly 50 years. He also served in the Senate for many years, including serving as president on the Foreign Affairs Committee. For 50 years, illegal settlements have always followed an upward trend. This recklessness of Israel against international law is emboldened by the unconditional support of the United States. Although Biden spoke of a "two-state solution" during his last trip with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he was not convincing. In a nutshell, it's the U.S. we have always known, nothing much as changed.