President Biden touched down in Israel beginning his Middle East tour and proceeded to have his first, “What am I doing now?” moment on the tarmac followed by forgetfully abandoning COVID fist-bumps for handshakes.
Originally, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced on Wednesday that because of COVID concerns, Biden would avoid shaking hands with anyone during the trip. He discussed the policy while addressing reporters aboard Air Force One prior to the president’s arrival in Israel.
“I think just the simplest way for me to put it is that we’re in a phase of the pandemic right now where we’re looking to increase masking, reduce contact, to minimize spread,” Sullivan declared, according to Fox News.
“I can’t speak to every moment and every interaction and every movement,” he added, providing cover for the president. “That’s just a general principle we’re applying.”
It took about 20 minutes for Biden to forget to avoid shaking hands after he touched down. He fist-bumped on the tarmac but forgot and shook hands with former Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu anyway.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed @POTUS @JoeBiden to Israel:
"Right now, we are simply happy to see you, Mr. President. The simple, genuine joy brought by seeing a good friend once again."
🇮🇱 🇺🇸https://t.co/dWnG7kMokn pic.twitter.com/ErWNCJn4XL
— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) July 13, 2022
JOE BIDEN in Israel: "What am I doing now?" pic.twitter.com/liBEsBsz2f
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) July 13, 2022
#Biden Shake hands with everyone using his Fist. a few minutes later, he fell back into oblivion, shook hands with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett with the palm of his hand. pic.twitter.com/eMFnYfF45Y
— Go4Ksa (@ksa4ruh) July 13, 2022
And as an added point, Biden was touching officials as well which sort of negates the whole fist-bump nonsense. They were notably not wearing masks either.
Senior White House reporter for NBC News Digital, Shannon Pettypiece also made an excellent point on Twitter, writing, “Biden was giving out fist bumps instead of handshakes on the tarmac in Israel to officials who offered an open palm. The White House said this is an added Covid precaution. But since Covid is largely spread through respiratory droplets, it is unclear what benefit this provides.”
Pettypiece reported that it didn’t take long for Biden to start handshaking after he landed, “Update: About 20 minutes later Biden abandoned the fist bump and was shaking hands with Israeli officials on the tarmac.”
Update: About 20 minutes later Biden abandoned the fist bump and was shaking hands with Israeli officials on the tarmac
— Shannon Pettypiece (@spettypi) July 13, 2022
Netanyahu gets a warm presidential handshake (Lapid and Bennett got a 🤛) pic.twitter.com/mZUnVIgfNx
— Jacob Kornbluh (@jacobkornbluh) July 13, 2022
Fox News is reporting that White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre asserted that the decision to avoid handshaking was made by Biden’s doctor. She cited the spread of the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants and said, “it is reasonable to expect him to take additional precautions.”
Senior White House reporter for Bloomberg News, Jennifer Jacobs tweeted, “Biden, on tarmac after landing in Israel, did fist bumps with each leader instead of handshakes. “We’re going to minimize contact as much as possible” to keep Biden safe from coronavirus, @PressSec said. He tested negative before trip and will test again during the trip, she said.”
Biden, on tarmac after landing in Israel, did fist bumps with each leader instead of handshakes. “We’re going to minimize contact as much as possible” to keep Biden safe from coronavirus, @PressSec said. He tested negative before trip and will test again during the trip, she said pic.twitter.com/tUb0zkd9Sn
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) July 13, 2022
For political rather than COVID reasons, it is likely that Biden will not shake hands with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he arrives in Saudi Arabia even though he is going there to indirectly beg for oil. That’s if he remembers that the prince is accused of ordering the murder of a Washington Post reporter.
Biden had previously vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” nation for its human rights record. He angered the Saudis by publicly releasing a U.S. intelligence report that stated the crown prince, who is often referred to by his initials MBS, most likely approved the 2018 savage killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a fierce critic of the kingdom’s leadership.
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