Biden arrives in Israel at start of Mideast talks

STORY: Arriving on Air Force One at Ben Gurion Airport, whose tarmac he first trod in 1973 as a senator, Biden bumped fists with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and, in a speech, described the United States' connection with the country as "deeper and stronger, in my view, than it has ever been."

Biden stressed the "unshakable commitment" of the United States to Israel's security while restating his support for a two-state solution, which he described as "the best hope for Israel and the Palestinians."

It is Biden's 10th visit to Israel, which has stepped carefully around disagreements with Washington over Iranian nuclear diplomacy and long-stalled Palestinian statehood negotiations.

"Your relationship with Israel has always been personal," Lapid said in a speech, calling Biden "a great Zionist and one of the best friends Israel has ever known."

Biden will spend two days in Jerusalem for talks with Israeli leaders before meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday in the occupied West Bank.

Afterward, he will take a direct flight from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - a first for an American president - on Friday (July 15) for talks with Saudi officials and to attend a summit of Gulf allies.

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