Joe Biden’s fist bump fiasco in Israel muddles bid to avoid MDS handshake

NEW DELHI: A blazing orb, a slapping embrace, a proper handshake, or a superb, Covid-appropriate fist bump? Despite all the hoopla about oil, President Biden's most important choice this week may include selecting the right salutation when he meets the Saudi ruler he has promised to ignore. After Biden was photographed giving former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a long handshake, the choice has just become more difficult.

During his first trip to West Asia, Biden wasn't meant to shake hands with any foreign heads of state. The precaution, according to advisers, was taken to shield him from Covid, but it also served as a convenient way to avoid shaking hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. After getting off Air Force One in Tel Aviv, Biden gently, if clumsily, fist-bumped the Israeli prime minister and other dignitaries. Speeches were followed by a brief handshake with the recently ousted premier Naftali Bennett and a generous overture from Netanyahu.

It will be difficult to fist bump MbS without risking offence as a result. As soon as he became office, Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" for killing critic Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. After Russia's invasion of Ukraine drove up gas prices, it was decided to improve relations. But the White House has worked hard to mend the relationship without staging a photo opportunity. On Friday, Biden is expected to travel to Jeddah.

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