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Peace between people is not just a piece of paper

Our commitment to the Abraham Accords must transcend partisan politics.

Representatives from the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt at the Negev Summit on June 27, 2022. Source: Alon Ushpiz/Twitter.
Representatives from the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt at the Negev Summit on June 27, 2022. Source: Alon Ushpiz/Twitter.
Aryeh Lightstone
Aryeh Lightstone is the former special envoy for economic normalization for the Abraham Accords. He is the author of Let My People Know: The Inside Story of the Abraham Accords

Aug. 13 will mark the three-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords. On Aug. 14, 2020, there was healthy skepticism about whether the Accords would be anything more than a piece of paper signed for political purposes. The Accords were launched and nurtured in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic amidst a heated election in the U.S. and yet another Israeli government hanging on by a thread. There were a lot of reasons to be skeptical, but the architects of the Accords were confident that they would be more than a piece of paper: They would be peace between people. A new Middle East had been developing on which the Accords were based.

The architects of the Abraham Accords have been vindicated. The new Middle East has completely changed the conversation throughout the region from if countries will ever make peace with Israel to when they will do so. This demonstrates that the Accords continue to have the potential to be, as Winston Churchill would say, a “hinge of history.”

The Abraham Accords were ready for the Biden administration to build on, but politics got in the way of good policy. It took longer than it should have for the administration to embrace the Accords, but with the appointment of former Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to a position responsible for regional cooperation, it is headed in the right direction.

Even more tantalizing are reports about a U.S.-brokered normalization between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel. When this occurs, under the Biden administration or a future administration, it should be applauded and broadly supported by the American people and their representatives in the House and Senate, regardless of political party.

Elections have consequences and new leaders often lead to new policies. But many Americans are not aware of how divided our foreign policies have become and the ramifications that division has. I have heard from numerous allies that they are frustrated that there is no longer a U.S. foreign policy. Instead, we have a Republican foreign policy and a Democrat foreign policy. This makes it exceedingly challenging for our friends and allies to know what type of friend or ally they are supposed to be.

Even worse, it has led some of our friends into the sphere of influence of the Chinese; not because they like Chinese policy but because they know what that policy is today and what it will be 50 years from now. Good or bad, the Chinese are consistent and reliable. This type of divided foreign policy puts U.S. interests in peril and makes the world substantially less safe.

President Donald Trump took a meaningful step towards demonstrating that it was important for his foreign policy to be U.S. foreign policy. One clear way he did this was by calling the Abraham Accords the Abraham Accords. Abraham is a universal figure, one that the region and the U.S. could get behind regardless of religion or political affiliation. Trump could have called this historic breakthrough the Trump Accords, but instead, by choosing the name the Abraham Accords, the agreements are likely to become one of the very few areas of U.S. foreign policy that can become truly bipartisan.

Not only can the Abraham Accords further peace and prosperity throughout the Middle East, but they can be a rare uniting principle for U.S. policymakers across the political spectrum.

One of the defining principles of the Abraham Accords was that by expanding peace in the region, and specifically normalizing relations with Israel, your country’s relationship with the U.S. would be elevated. To date, the verdict on that is still out.

If the Biden administration wants to expand and enhance the Accords, they can take the following immediate steps: The heads of state of each signatory nation should be invited for a special ceremony of recognition. This can be accomplished in or around U.N. week. If this cannot be accomplished in that time span, then each ambassador from the signatory nations should be invited to the State of the Union and the president should recognize them by name and accomplishment. I am confident that the loud and sustained unanimous standing ovation will be heard not just on U.S. broadcasts but in the capitals of those who have made peace and, just as importantly, those who have not yet made peace.

The Abraham Fund should be immediately restarted, less to invest U.S. capital than to convene all the signatory nations to see how favorable trade and investments with the U.S. can help to pay the dividend for peace.

Finally, the next ministerial meeting of the Negev Summit should be hosted in Washington, D.C. and an immediate announcement made of this decision. Peace cannot and should not wait for any democracy’s domestic challenges. Hosting the meeting in the U.S. will show that our alliance with Israel and our commitment to the Abraham Accords transcend politics—ours and the Israelis’. As the only other democracy in the Accords, we have an obligation to consistently stand by and support Israel, as we should expect them to do the same for us.

A Saudi-Israel deal will happen, in the next 90 days or in the next five years, but it will happen, and it should be one of the watershed moments in all of world history. For it to have the dramatic impact that it should, it must be an American policy. To ensure that this breakthrough will be met with enthusiasm on both sides of the aisle, the time to make the Abraham Accords U.S. policy—not the policy of one party or another—is now. When the Accords expand, our allies win; and more importantly, we in the U.S. win. To build for the future, it is important to invest in the present.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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