The Latest: Group’s billboards say Israel is “apartheid”

The Latest on U.S. President Joe Biden’s trip to the Mideast (all times local):

An Israeli human rights group has put up billboards in the occupied West Bank with a stark message for President Joe Biden, saying “this is apartheid.”

B’Tselem is among three rights groups that say Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, both in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel itself, amounts to apartheid. Both Israel and the U.S. reject the charge.

B’Tselem put up the billboards in Ramallah, the seat of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, and in Bethlehem, where Biden is to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.

B’Tselem’s executive director, Hagai El-Ad, accused multiple U.S. administrations of tolerating Israeli human rights abuses “without demanding accountability” and urged Washington to change its attitude toward Israel.

“When the attitude changes – so will the regime,” he said.

Biden was expected to land in Israel for a 48-hour visit to the area later Wednesday. He is not expected to offer any major diplomatic initiatives during the visit. He flies to Saudi Arabia on Friday.

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JERUSALEM — The United States and Israel are launching a new strategic high-level dialogue between the countries that will focus on technology.

The new talks were announced in a joint statement from U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday, just hours before Biden was scheduled to arrive in Israel for his first Mideast visit as president.

The partnership is to focus on the use of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and other tech-based solutions, against global challenges such as pandemic preparedness and climate change, the statement said.

The leaders pledged to work together to “advance and protect critical and emerging technologies in accordance with our national interests, democratic principles and human rights, and to address geostrategic challenges.”

On Wednesday, Biden begins his trip to the region in Israel and the occupied West Bank. He is scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia on Friday.

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