The U.S. president may have been standing in Jerusalem but other Middle East heavyweights took center stage. 
President Joe Biden spent his second day in Israel fulfilling all of the diplomatic duties that come with an official visit to a foreign nation. He met with the acting prime minister. He greeted the opposition leader, as is customary. He spent time with Israel's president. He even received Israel's highest civilian honor: the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor. 
But it was not the pomp and circumstance that dominated the day. Instead, it was the president's comments about two regional powers: Iran and Saudi Arabia. 
In a joint press event with newly-elevated Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Biden was forced to defend and deflect about his administration's position on Iran and specifically its nuclear capabilities. 
Israel strongly opposed the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly referred to as the JCPOA or the Iran Nuclear Deal, from its early stages. Biden campaigned on returning to the deal after his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, pulled the U.S. out of it in 2018. 
But Biden's stance stands in contrast to that of Israel. Lapid argued the time for negotiations is over.
"Words will not stop them, Mr. President. Diplomacy will not stop them. The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program the free world will use force," Lapid argued. 
He continued: "The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table. You have said many times, Mr. President, that big countries do not bluff."
While Biden did not rule out using force against Iran in an earlier interview with Israel's Channel 12 TV, he did measure his words by adding "if that was the last resort." 
Still, the two leaders did put together a joint declaration, including harsh words for Iran.

"The United States stresses that integral to this pledge is the commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that it is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome," the Jerusalem U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration reads. 
In many ways, Biden's trip to Israel is more of a show of face than any major rebalancing of relations. The Biden Administration has formally and informally shifted away from the Middle East as a top focus of its foreign policy and national security posture. 
The Administration is not making any major policy changes. The embassy is still in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is still the official capital of Israel in the eyes of the U.S. government. And despite the president's plan to visit the occupied West Bank, the U.S. has no plans to reopen its consulate in the Palestinian territories. 
It is, perhaps, the final country on the trip, though, that is giving the president the most heartburn. 
The president pressed strongly on Thursday about his trip to Saudi Arabia and specifically, whether he will address human rights and the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 
When asked directly, the president waffled a bit but would not commit either way. 
"My views on Khashoggi have been absolutely, positively clear. And I have never been quiet about talking about human rights. The reason I'm going to Saudi Arabia though is much broader. It's to promote U.S. interests," Biden said. 
Unofficially at the top of the list? Oil. 
Saudi Arabia is the world's top exporter of oil and as gas prices continue to sting Biden back at home, he's turning to an old friend for help. 
That is not without controversy, as human rights groups, 9/11 survivors, and others continue to pressure the U.S. president to speak out. 
The president repeated several times his reason for traveling to Saudi Arabia is simple: "It's to promote U.S. interests — promote U.S. interests in a way that I think we have an opportunity to reassert what I think we made a mistake of walking away from, our influence in the Middle East."
Despite a focus outside of the Middle East, the president wants to maintain close ties he believes are in the interest of the American people — that includes the relationship with Saudi Arabia. 
The president will spend Friday in the Palestinian territories before traveling to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.