The White House on Monday announced President Joe Biden is scrapping a planned trip to Colorado just hours before he was set to depart, so he can instead hold meetings with his national security team as Israel’s war with Hamas appears set to escalate.
Discussions are underway for a possible Biden visit to the Middle East after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended an invitation to Biden, though the White House said Sunday it has no new travel plans to announce at this time.
Israel has amassed forces on the Gaza border ahead of a potential invasion into the strip. Since last weekend’s attack by Hamas terrorists that left more than 1,400 dead in Israel, the Israelis have unleashed a massive bombing campaign on Gaza and the country’s military has warned civilians to evacuate the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
The last-minute decision to cancel the trip to Pueblo, Colorado, to discuss his clean energy agenda underscores how seriously Biden is taking the conflict. Presidential travel is highly coordinated and requires extensive planning, and trips are rarely postponed on the day they are set to take place.
Biden was set to speak at CS Wind, the largest wind tower manufacturer in the world, as part of his “Investing in America” tour that highlights jobs created by the Inflation Reduction Act that passed last year. The planned visit to Pueblo was also notable for its connection to next year’s election: It’s the home district of firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican who barely held onto her seat in the 2022 election.
“The reason to stay home today, Phil, was really to make sure that he could stay focused on what’s going between Israel and Hamas,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told CNN’s Phil Mattingly on “This Morning.” “(Biden) will have national security meetings today. I don’t have any travel to speak to or announce, with respect to Israel. There was an invitation from the prime minister, but again, no travel to speak to right now.”
Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday for additional meetings with Israeli leaders. Blinken visited Israel last week and has since traveled for meetings with some of the US’ top Arab allies in the Middle East. He said ahead of this latest meeting that the US is “actively working” to make sure humanitarian supplies can get into Gaza.
The secretary is set to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and opposition leader Yair Lapid, in addition to meetings with Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog, per a US official.
Biden has made an effort to keep up his domestic agenda after Hamas’ attack, speaking on so-called “junk fees” in the White House Rose Garden, making a trip to Philadelphia on Friday to discuss his economic agenda and addressing the 2023 Human Rights Campaign National Dinner. But the violence in Israel and Gaza has often superseded that agenda.
The president has held multiple calls with Netanyahu over the last week and has remained in frequent contact with allies about the crisis. The White House has also made clear that Biden’s schedule is full of meetings with his national security team behind the scenes after the president faced criticism from some Republicans last week for having few public events on his schedule on multiple days.
This story has been updated with additional background information and reaction.