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Wednesday 31 May 2023 Dublin: 14°C
AP/PA Images
# Joe Biden
Biden likens Palestinians to Irish Catholics on trip to Middle East
He was speaking at East Jerusalem Hospital.

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden has likened the experience of Palestinians to the oppression of Irish Catholics at the hands of Britain throughout history.

Biden departed Tel Aviv today aboard a historic direct flight from Israel to Saudi Arabia, the latest stop on his first Middle East tour as US leader.

Speaking at East Jerusalem Hospital earlier today, Biden said: “My background and the background of my family is Irish American. And we have a long history not fundamentally unlike the Palestinian people, with Great Britain and their attitude toward Irish Catholics over the years for 400 years.”

He quoted a passage from Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy which he has referenced in speeches before:

“History says, don’t hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.

“It’s classically Irish,” Biden said of the famous passage, “but it also could fit Palestinians.”

He said Palestinians require a political path towards peace with Israel, even if a two-state solution to the conflict appears far off.

With Palestinians banned by Israel from political activity in Jerusalem, the US president travelled to Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank to meet leader Mahmud Abbas.

Biden also reaffirmed a “full” US effort towards accountability over the killing of Palestinian-American Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh.

Biden, who has repeatedly emphasised his support for Palestinian statehood since landing in the region on Wednesday, acknowledged “the goal of the two states seems so far away”, with the peace process moribund since 2014.

Abbas said: “The key to peace begins with recognising the state of Palestine.”

Biden has now departed Tel Aviv, aboard a historic direct flight from Israel to Saudi Arabia, the latest stop on his first Middle East tour as US leader.

Hours ahead of the president’s arrival in Jeddah, the oil-rich Gulf kingdom changed its aviation rules in an apparent gesture of openness towards Israel.

The Saudi leadership paved the way for Israeli planes to use its airspace by announcing it was lifting restrictions on “all carriers”, a move welcomed by Biden as “historic”.

Biden’s direct flight is the first by an American president from Israel to Saudi Arabia.

He undertook his first presidential visit to Israel as part of the trip, where he and the Jewish state’s caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday signed a security pact reinforcing their common front against Iran.

With reporting from Emer Moreau

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