US President Joe Biden on Wednesday kicked off a Middle East tour in Israel where both sides vowed to deepen the Jewish state’s integration in the region as they face their common foe Iran. Biden — whose first regional tour since taking office will also take him to Saudi Arabia — pledged strong backing for Israel, which has forged ties with several Arab states in recent years and hopes to do so with Riyadh as well. “We’ll continue to advance Israel’s integration into the region,” Biden said after Air Force One touched down at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv to a red-carpet welcome. Israel’s caretaker prime minister Yair Lapid said that “we will discuss building a new security and economy architecture with the nations of the Middle East”, following US-brokered accords in 2020 with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. “And we will discuss the need to renew a strong global coalition that will stop the Iranian nuclear programme,” he added, amid ongoing efforts by world powers to salvage Iran’s frayed 2015 nuclear deal, which Israel opposes. Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Friday will be the major focus of the tour, after he branded the oil-rich kingdom a “pariah” over the 2018 murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The trip is seen as part of efforts to stabilise oil markets rattled by the war in Ukraine, by re-engaging with a long-time key US strategic ally and major energy supplier. Air Force One will make a first direct flight from Israel to Saudi Arabia amid efforts to build ties between the Jewish state and the conservative Gulf kingdom, which does not recognise Israel’s existence.