It took an explicit commitment from his Israeli counterpart to open Gaza for humanitarian aid for US President Joe Biden to agree to make an extraordinary wartime trip to Tel Aviv.
While the trip will amount to a dramatic show of support for Israel as it prepares its response to last week’s Hamas attacks, it will also act as Biden’s strongest push for easing the suffering of civilians and allowing those who want to leave Gaza out.
The high-stakes diplomacy with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his interlocutor of four decades, underscores the delicate balance Biden is striking as he embarks upon the last-minute wartime visit today.
At stake are the lives of millions of civilians, including Americans, currently stuck in the coastal Palestinian enclave where a humanitarian crisis is underway as Israeli troops mass at its borders ahead of an expected ground invasion.
While there was no explicit stipulation from the US that Israel will not launch its invasion until Biden leaves the region, that’s the understanding among American officials who have spent the past several days debating and planning the president’s visit, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.