The Biden administration is attempting to build on landmark accords that normalized relations between Israel and a handful of Arab or Muslim nations, but without leaving out the Palestinians, whose cause for statehood seems more distant than ever.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Wednesday hosted talks in Washington with his counterparts from Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Yair Lapid and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, respectively.
“We strongly believe that Palestinians and Israelis should live safely, securely and with equal amounts of freedom, prosperity, and democracy. We will continue our efforts towards that end,” Blinken stated in a press conference with Lapid, Abdullah and Abdullah.
The three diplomats also discussed Iran’s failure thus far to return to the international nuclear deal from which the Trump administration withdrew as other nations in the pact tried to keep it alive. Blinken said the “runway” for reviving the deal in a way that controls Iran’s enrichment of nuclear materials “is getting shorter and shorter.”
Lapid reiterated that if diplomacy fails with Iran, Israel is prepared with alternatives. It is believed that Israel has carried out clandestine strikes on Iranian sites.
The agreement between Israel, the few Arab countries, also known as the Abraham accords was reached a year ago under the Trump administration. This agreement, which the former president claimed was his greatest diplomatic achievement, was often cited by Trump. The agreement was signed by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with Sudan and Morocco. However, their participation has been limited.
Since the signing, Israel has been engaged in numerous business and tourism deals with the Emirates and Bahrain, while the U.S. agreed to sell F-35 stealth fighter jets to the Emiratis. An estimated 200,000 Israeli tourists visited the Emirates in the last year, the U.S. government says, and the two countries have exchanged ambassadors.
Blinken hailed “transformative partnerships” that are allowing the three Middle Eastern countries to create and deepen diplomacy and development projects in areas such as water use, climate change and trade.
Current and former administration officials insist other Arab and Muslim countries are ready to join, but there has been no such movement to date, especially from regional powers such as Saudi Arabia.
Although none of the signatories to the Abraham accords were engaged in war with Israel, they had not formally recognized the country. They were able to recognize Israel diplomatically, which was a significant step.
But the Palestinians were left out in the cold.
Arab countries had long maintained that they would not establish ties with Israel if the Palestinian sovereignty issue was not resolved. The Abraham agreements’ Arab signatories claimed that they could stop Israel from annexing large swathes of the West Bank, which is disputed by the Palestinians.
Despite all efforts by the U.S. and regional powers to make progress in negotiations with the Palestinians, there has not been any. Despite promises, Washington has not reopened Jerusalem’s U.S. Consulate, which is a de facto embassy to the Palestinians.
The consulate was subsumed when President Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018 to criticism from international allies and outcry from the Palestinians, who have shunned the embassy because it broke decades of U.S. neutrality on competing claims over Jerusalem. The Biden administration has not been forceful in limiting settlement expansion.
The Abraham accords are “not a substitute for the two-state solution,” a senior State Department official said, “and we hope that normalization can be leveraged to advance progress on the Israeli-Palestine track.”
The official briefed reporters ahead of Wednesday’s meetings on condition of anonymity in keeping with government protocols.
“The Biden Administration began out with a clear commitment towards the two-state resolution,” said the official. “We continue on with that commitment and we seek to advance it as we can, when we can, as best we can.”
It is unclear what leverage the Biden administration can apply to Israel, still the largest recipient of U.S.
It is unclear what leverage the Biden administration can apply to Israel, still the largest recipient of U.S. aid.
Lapid has been more receptive to Palestinian rights, but the new prime minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, has said he opposes an independent Palestinian state.
” Our goal is to collaborate with the Palestinian Authority in order to ensure that all children have the opportunity to live a decent life, Lapid stated during the news conference with Blinken.
Abdullah said he hoped the Palestinians and Israelis would see that regional cooperation is “the path,” because it brings stability, peace and economic prosperity.
Some experts in the Mideast believe that the Biden administration has been slow to act on the Abraham accords. They say it is not clear why. It could be that Trump achieved it or because current officials only see limited progress under it.
“The Biden Administration is rhetorically involved,” stated Michael Koplow (policy director at the Israel Policy Forum), a pro-Israel U.S. organization that supports a Palestinian state. “But there is no evidence that they are enmeshed in finding out what needs to happen to get other countries involved or to bring in the Palestinians.”
President Biden and Blinken have had to tread a narrow line where they continue to evince that “unshakeable bond” the U.S. and Israel have, while also ending or fine-tuning some of the brazenly pro-Israel policies of the previous administration. Some members of that administration, including Trump’s son and daughter, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump were visiting Israel and its environs to mark the first anniversary the Abraham accords.
Pompeo reportedly visited Jewish settlements in the West Bank, considered illegal by much of the world, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently lost reelection as he faced trial on corruption charges.
Pompeo also received the so-called Peace Through Strength Award from David Friedman, who was the previous administration’s ambassador to Israel.