U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the recent violence in Judea and Samaria harms the prospects of expanding the Abraham Accords, the Trump administration-brokered agreements that normalized relations between the Jewish state and four Arab countries—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
“We’ve told our friends and allies in Israel that if there’s a fire burning in their backyard, it’s going to be a lot tougher, if not impossible, to actually both deepen the existing agreements as well as to expand them to include potentially Saudi Arabia,” said Blinken.
“It’s also, at least in our judgment as Israel’s closest friend and ally, profoundly not in Israel’s interest for this to happen—both because of the added degree of difficulty that this presents for pursuing normalization agreements, or deepening them, but also because of the practical consequences,” he added.
“And I actually had this conversation just yesterday with my Israeli counterpart. It’s a conversation I’ve had with the prime minister on a number of occasions,” continued the top American diplomat, who spoke at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Blinken’s comments come on the heels of the announcement this week by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen that Morocco had postponed the second gathering of the Negev Forum, a group formed to advance the Abraham Accords, over Jerusalem’s plan to build thousands of homes in Judea and Samaria.
Cohen nevertheless noted that the effort to expand the agreements remains strong, praising the passing on June 13 of a bipartisan bill by the U.S. House of Representatives requiring the State Department to establish an ambassador-level special envoy position for the Abraham Accords.
On Monday, the United States said it was “deeply troubled” by Israel’s approval of 5,700 new housing units in Judea and Samaria, with State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller calling the decision an “impediment to a negotiated two-state solution.”
The U.S. condemnation followed an announcement by the Biden administration that it would cut scientific and technological cooperation with Israeli institutions in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
In response, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who helped forge the Abraham Accords, took to Twitter, writing: “Make no mistake. The United States, by this action, is embracing the BDS movement, violating a binding bilateral agreement with Israel, and creating a lose/lose dynamic whereby the people of the region—Israelis and Palestinians—will lose the most.”
The U.S.-Israel disagreements are playing out on the backdrop of a wave of deadly Palestinian terrorism, and recent vigilante violence by Israelis in Arab villages in Judea and Samaria.
Despite the unrest, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi told JNS last week that Washington believes that a landmark diplomatic deal normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia is achievable.
Hanegbi said that “generally speaking” he was “optimistic” that it was possible to enlarge the circle of Arab countries that have normalized relations with Israel since the historic Abraham Accords were signed in 2020.
Hanegbi noted, however, that in the case of Riyadh the ball was not in Israel’s court.
“It’s up to them,” Hanegbi said. “We want normalization and peace, but they have their own demands of the Americans.”
Earlier this month, Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Gulf kingdom.
In return for normalization, Riyadh reportedly wants American support for its civilian nuclear program, something Washington has long opposed, as well as a strong security pact with the United States.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called a deal with the Saudis a “quantum leap” for regional peace, which would effectively end the Arab-Israeli conflict.