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The Biden administration is laying the groundwork for a renewed push to encourage more Arab countries to sign agreements with Israel and is working to strengthen existing agreements following the devastating war in the United States last month. Gaza Strip interrupted these diplomatic efforts.
The adoption of the so-called Abraham Accords is a rare presidential postponement of the Trump administration’s signature policy. Joe Biden and other democrats.
The Trump administration has used US influence and incentives to conclude pacts with four Arab states last year, easing the animosity and isolation of the Jewish state in the Middle East that has erupted since Israel’s founding in 1948. The Biden administration saw significant promise in the signing of agreements by several other Arab governments to calm and normalize relations with Israel. US officials declined to publicly name countries they see as promising.
Sudan which signed a general declaration of peaceful intentions, but had not yet signed diplomatic relations with Israel, was a prospect. Oman who pursues a policy of non-intervention, which allows him to mediate across the fault lines of the Middle East, has long been viewed by Westerners as a likely rival.
But the 11-day war between Israel and the warring rulers of Hamas in the Gaza Strip last month has made it difficult for US-backed diplomacy to reach new agreements for Abraham.
The fighting “has strengthened the conviction of opponents of normalizing relations with Israel,” activist Dura Gambo said in Sudan. The Sudanese are already divided over their government’s agreement last year to become one of four Arab states to sign the agreements. In the case of Sudan, the Trump administration has offered financial assistance from US sanctions.
The bloodshed last month, which killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children and at least 22 members of the same family, caused a great resonance in the Arab public, including in other countries that have signed agreements with Israel: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. Thirteen people died in Israel, including two children and one soldier.
The Biden administration is considering appointing former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro for a Middle East role that will strengthen and potentially expand interstate agreements between Israel and the governments of the Middle East.
Two people familiar with the matter have confirmed that Shapiro is being considered for the position, as first reported by The Washington Post. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not allowed to comment publicly.
US officials are also working to expand business, educational and other ties between the four Arab states and Israel. They hope that visible success will contribute to the achievement of bilateral agreements in the region, while the United States is working to advance the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Last year, the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab country in more than two decades to establish ties with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, respectively. It was a move that was bypassed by the Palestinians who saw it as a betrayal.
The Abraham Accords include a general declaration of support for peaceful relations in the Middle East between Jews, Muslims and Christians, all followers of religions associated with Patriarch Abraham. The Trump administration viewed these agreements in part as paving the way for full cooperation with Israel, including on security and intelligence cooperation to counter common rivals such as Iran.
The deals made by former President Donald Trump were “an important achievement that we not only support but want to build on,” the US Secretary of State said. Anthony Blink said this week the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In addition, “we are looking at countries that might want to join and get involved and begin to normalize their relationship with Israel. This was also an important part of the conversations I had with some of my colleagues, ”Blinken added.
Opponents of these agreements, however, argue that they undermine the Arab consensus to recognize Israel only when it resumes serious peace talks with the Palestinians, leading to tangible concessions.
“These agreements have never dealt with the peace process,” said Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister who accuses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of these agreements as an alternative to peacekeeping with the Palestinians.
“Were they helpful to the peace process? No, it’s not like that, ”said Muasher. “They gave Israel the false impression that it could negotiate peace agreements with the Arab states instead of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.”
Proponents of intercountry agreements say Israel’s isolation has failed to overcome decades of impasse in which the Palestinians have demanded the creation of their own state, with its capital in East Jerusalem.
“No matter how many ways the Biden administration has moved away from Trump’s policies in the region, there will be places where it sees an interest in continuity,” said Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy, who spoke with officials in Oman during his trip just prior to this. The Gaza war broke out last month.
Significant political and pragmatic developments must take place in the region before any new efforts to reach agreement can move forward. The focus is now on Israel to see how a possible new coalition government, led by a new prime minister, could affect Israeli-Palestinian relations, especially after the Gaza war.
The Knesset is set to vote on Sunday to approve a new government and end the 12-year rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If this happens, Naftali Bennett, leader of the Yamina party, will become prime minister. Bennett opposes Palestinian statehood.
The agreements signed by the four Arab countries so far seem to be strong, despite the tension of the war last month. Ditto with the big incentives the Trump administration has added to help close deals, such as U.S. recognition of the disputed Western Sahara as Morocco.
In the UAE, the financial center of the Gulf and most enthusiastic about establishing ties with Israel, Emirati political scientist Abdulhalek Abdullah said the government judges public sentiment, but can also control the streets and sometimes ignore any public opposition.
“This decision was made by the UAE. They knew exactly where they were and knew the risk, and they would not come back to it, ”he said.
Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City, Kellman from Jerusalem and Batrawi from Dubai. AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee contributed from Washington. AP author Joseph Federman contributed from Jerusalem and AP author Sami Magdi contributed from Cairo.
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