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For context, high officials usually do not announce their state visits to conflict areas way in advance publicly due to security reasons. When Biden visited Ukraine, the visit was kept secret until the last moments. However, when it came to Biden's visit to Israel, it was publicly announced in advance and information about the visit was given to the media.

Why is the visit to Israel different? Is the US trying to send some message by doing this or is Israel simply secure enough that they are not taking security risks as seriously as in Ukraine?

If this is supposed to send a message, what sort of message does this project to countries in the region? The US leadership already stated it unequivocally stands behind Israel.

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  • Probably both... One would have to check what kind of announcements [if any] were made e.g. before Nixon's visit to South Vietnam politico.com/story/2010/07/… He did make several. His first was indeed unannounced. I'm not sure about his 2nd. Oct 19, 2023 at 11:59
  • @Fizz in that case what kind of message is he trying to send? Oct 19, 2023 at 12:00
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    Also, Biden's trip was announced to the Russians on the deconfliction line "some hours before departure" cbsnews.com/news/… Also "The White House had discussed the possibility of a Biden trip to Kyiv for a year" Oct 19, 2023 at 12:09
  • Also "The White House had discussed the possibility of a Biden trip to Kyiv for a year" aljazeera.com/news/2023/2/21/… although I'm not sure if al-J means public mentions of the possibility. Oct 19, 2023 at 12:15
  • @Fizz yes, but that was hours not days. And vague discussion is not the same as literally announcing exact date days in advance. You don't see the difference? This is what motivates my question. Oct 19, 2023 at 12:30

2 Answers 2

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I'll cover your sub-question first

For context, high officials usually do not announce their state visits to conflict areas way in advance publicly due to security reasons. When Biden visited Ukraine, the visit was kept secret until the last moments.

Ukraine was harder to secure, hence the secrecy. The US did not have much presence in Ukraine before the war. And Biden had to travel by train from Poland, as opposed to landing directly in Tel Aviv.

Israel is a bit better on security than Ukraine. But there are also a lot of US Naval assets in the region now. Attacking a US President would get a near-immediate military response.

Solidarity

Biden has a strong pro-Israel stance. Biden's opening remarks in his speech in Tel Aviv made that clear

I come to Israel with a single message: You are not alone. You are not alone. As long as the United States stands — and we will stand forever — we will not let you ever be alone.

Biden does not want a valued ally going through a terrible time to stand alone. This objective is easy enough to understand.

Preventing War

Understand that what happened on Oct 7 has the potential to broaden into a much wider regional war, and possibly even a world war. If Israel pours all its troops into Gaza, it's possible Hezbollah in Lebanon opens up a second front. If Israel goes at it on two fronts (with or without US support), it's possible other regional actors (like Iran, who supports both Hamas and Hezbollah) gets involved, as well as Syria.

Iran, in turn, is partners with both Russia and China. If things begin to go badly for Iran, one or both may involve themselves more directly on Iran's behalf. With that much military might involved, the chances of further escalation go up significantly.

Biden has been trying to forestall that possibility since the beginning of the crisis

The United States has also enhanced our military force posture in the region to strengthen our deterrence. The Department of Defense has moved the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean and bolstered our fighter aircraft presence. And we stand ready to move in additional assets as needed. Let me say again — to any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation, I have one word: Don’t. Don’t.

By visiting Israel directly in a time of war, he makes clear he's willing to go to great lengths to support his ally.

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  • Also, we have sufficient precedent showing that a US President resigning or dying won't destabilize the system. Kamala Harris would just take over immediately and things will be fine. This is one reason why the US system is more resilient than a dictatorship. So even if Biden's plane is taken down it won't really harm the US in practice. Oct 19, 2023 at 19:31
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    @JonathanReez : and considering Biden's... let's just say "absentmindedness", it is likely that his decisions are made by his staff anyway.
    – vsz
    Oct 20, 2023 at 12:43
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    Regarding the security aspect: I'm fairly sure Biden's visit to Kyiv was announced to Russia ahead of time through diplomatic channels, because not even Russia wants one of their drones to accidentally land on the head of the POTUS as that could have unwanted consequences. However, the US might not have that sort of reliable diplomatic channels set up with all the groups currently firing rockets at Israel, so announcing is publicly is likely the only safe way to get the word out to everyone involved.
    – TooTea
    Oct 20, 2023 at 14:22
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Question:

If this (Biden’s visit to Israel) is supposed to send a message, what sort of message does this send?

This message is directed to everyone who has family and loved ones in Israel, both in Israel and in the United States. The message is that Joe Biden stands with Israel. It's designed to reassure people. It's a show of solidarity. Welcome to U.S. politics. Political win for Biden and Netanyahu. Both of whom need it. More than that though it's a rapprochement. It gives these two experienced political figures common cause and motivation to work together to get something done, or at least be seen doing so. Win, Win.

A. Why did Biden announce his visit to Israel in advance?

If he didn't publicly announce it the press wouldn't have shown up. Netanyahu probable wouldn't have either. It certainly brings the two together with a common purpose and punctuated that with a big old photo op hug on the tarmac. It opens Israeli's hearts to Biden and that was the only way Biden was going to get a hug from this Israeli PM.

This works to Biden's favor in the US. Specifically the U.S. congress which is in disarray right now and are only united in their support for Israel. It's a stated reason for the Republicans to motivate themselves to resolve their current self inflicted wounds and get back to work. Biden brining up an aid package for Israel, put the pressure on the Republicans.

This works to Biden's favor in Israel. It leverages Netanyahu a bit. Gives them common cause. Did you notice Israel came out today and said they would allow humanitarian aid into Gaza from Egypt? Coincidence?

It also helps Biden with Ukraine funding. It gave him a stage to announce packaging Ukraine's funding, aid to Israel, aid to Taiwan and funds for the southern US border with Mexico. Genius! Who could vote against that?

It also helps Netanyahu who has his own existential political crisis going on within the troubles. Israeli's looking on appreciatively to the US president, Netanyahu is going to want to be close to that, maybe some appreciation will rub off.

It's not pretty, it's not dignified, but it certainly is smart, and it's how things get done.

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