ISRAEL + HAMAS

Behind the scenes of Biden’s visit to Israel

Oct 24, 2023, 1:00 PM | Updated: Nov 30, 2023, 5:36 pm

a sign welcomes president biden while he was in israel...

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 18: A digital billboard welcomes US President Joe Biden to Israel on October 18, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

(Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Israel was far different from past presidential visits to war zones.

Peter Baker, the chief White House correspondent for the New York Times accompanied President Biden on his recent trip. He shared a behind-the-scenes look with KSL NewsRadio’s Inside Sources. 

“It was more surreal, I think, than scary,” said Baker. 

“We were flying to Israel, and they [brought] the security detail back to the press cabin,” Baker said. He said he has been flying on Air Force One since 1996. 

Next, Baker said, “They gave us a security briefing on what to do if we suddenly came under rocket attack.” 

He said the security briefing was out of the ordinary for a flight on Air Force One, however, it made sense. 

“They were flying the President of the United States right into a place where anything could happen,” Baker said.

During the security briefing, they were given security cards that explained what to do in the case of an air raid siren or rocket attack. “They told us we had one minute to get to safety basically… that’s when a rocket could hit,” said Baker. 

A different visit

President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama visited war zones during their presidencies. President Biden’s recent visit to Israel came with strong contrasts. 

“[Presidents Bush and Obama traveled] in secrecy at night. They only [went] to an American military base where they [were] at least somewhat relatively safe,” Baker said.

Presidential visits to war zones are typically not publicized ahead of time. 

In contrast, President Biden went to a place where the American military was not on the ground. His plane landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, which has been under rocket attack. The visit was televised on Israeli networks, and the world knew he was coming prior to his arrival. 

Baker didn’t share behind-the-scenes details from the short time the president was on the ground.

NPR reported that President Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also met families of the victims of the Oct. 7 attacks and first responders. The trip was meant to show support to Israel and warn Iran and Hezbollah, according to NPR. 

Following Air Force One’s departure from Israel, Biden visited the press cabin. 

After the trip to Israel

“He doesn’t do [that] very often,” said Baker. During his presidency, he’s only visited the press cabin one other time, and it was off the record. 

“This time, he came back and talked on the record,” said Baker. 

Biden told the press that he had spoken to Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. They had come to an agreement for sending humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

“He wanted to make sure that that got out,” said Baker. 

Biden took other questions as well. He seemed “pretty loose,” according to Baker.

Following his trip, the president made remarks on the Hamas attacks on Israel, as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

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Behind the scenes of Biden’s visit to Israel