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Biden embraces Trump’s policy of supporting Arab-Israeli agreements Gaza Strip East Jerusalem Morocco Benjamin Netanyahu Antony Blinken

The Biden administration is laying the groundwork for a renewed push to encourage more Arab countries to sign agreements with Israel and work to strengthen existing agreements after last month’s devastating war in the Gaza Strip disrupted those diplomatic efforts.

The embrace of the so-called Abraham Accords is a rare carryover of a Trump administration policy signed by President Joe Biden and other Democrats.

The Trump administration put U.S. influence and incentives into securing country-by-country pacts of four Arab states last year, easing enmity and isolation for the Jewish state in the Middle East that dates back to its founding. of Israel in 1948. The Biden administration has seen significant prospects of many other Arab governments signing agreements soothing and normalizing relations with Israel. US officials have refused to publicly identify countries they see as promising prospects.

Sudan, which signed a general declaration of peaceful intent but has not yet signed diplomatic relations with Israel, was a prospect. Oman, which has a non-interference policy that allows it to be an intermediary across the fault lines of the Middle East, has long been viewed by Westerners as a likely contender.

But the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas’ militant rulers in Gaza last month complicated US-backed diplomacy over the new Abrahamic accords.

The fighting “has strengthened the belief of the opponents of normalization” with Israel, said activist Doura Gambo in Sudan. The Sudanese were already divided on their government’s agreement last year to become one of four Arab states to sign agreements. In the case of Sudan, the Trump administration has offered financial relief from US sanctions.

Last month’s bloodshed, which killed 254 Palestinians – including 66 children and at least 22 family members – had a profound resonance among the Arab public, including in other countries that had signed agreements with Israel: United Arab Emirates. , Bahrain and Morocco. Thirteen people died in Israel, including two children and a soldier.

The Biden administration is considering appointing a former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, for a role in the Middle East that could organize and potentially expand country-by-country agreements between Israeli and Middle Eastern governments.

Two people familiar with the matter confirmed that Shapiro was being considered for the job, the Washington Post first reported. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to comment publicly.

US officials are also working to encourage more business, education and other ties between the four Arab states and Israel. They hope that visible success there will also promote bilateral agreements in the region as the United States works to advance the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last year, the UAE became the first Arab country in over two decades to establish ties with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994 respectively. It was a move that bypassed the Palestinians, which l ‘they viewed 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 linked to the patriarch Abraham. The Trump administration saw the agreements in part as paving the way for full ties with Israel, including in security and intelligence cooperation to counter common rivals, such as Iran.

The agreements reached by former President Donald Trump were “an important achievement, which we not only support, but on which we would like to build,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week.

Furthermore, “we are looking at countries that may want to join and participate and start normalizing their relations with Israel. This was also an integral part of the conversations I had with many of my counterparts, ”Blinken added.

Opponents of these agreements, however, argue that they undermine the Arab consensus on Israel’s recognition only when serious peace talks with Palestinians resume that will lead to tangible concessions.

“These agreements have never been about the peace process,” said Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister, who accuses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of seeing the agreements as an alternative to the peace process with the Palestinians.

“Were they useful to the peace process? No, they weren’t, “Muasher said.” They gave Israel the false impression that they could make peace deals with Arab states to replace the Palestinian deal. “

Advocates of the country-by-country agreements say Israel’s isolation has failed to overcome decades of deadlock on Palestinian demand for their state with the capital in East Jerusalem.

“In so many ways the Biden administration moves away from Trump’s policy in the region, there will be places where it will see an interest in continuity,” the Democratic senator said. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who spoke to officials in Oman on a trip just before the outbreak of the Gaza war last month.

Before any new effort on agreements goes ahead, major political and pragmatic developments need to take place in the region. Eyes are on Israel right now to see how a possible new coalition government led by a new prime minister could affect Israeli-Palestinian relations, especially in the aftermath of the Gaza war.

The Knesset is expected to vote on Sunday whether to uphold the new government and end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year rule. If he does, Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett will become prime minister. Bennett opposes the Palestinian state.

The agreements signed by the four Arab nations so far appear firmly in place despite the tensions of last month’s war. So too are the large incentives the Trump administration has launched to help close the deals, such as the US’s recognition of the disputed territory of Western Sahara for Morocco.

In the UAE, a Gulf financial center that has been most keen to establish ties with Israel, Emirati political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla said the government is measuring public sentiment, but can also control the road and sometimes challenge any public opposition there is.

“The UAE has made this decision. They knew exactly where they were and they knew the risk, and they won’t come back, “he said.

—-

Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City, Kellman from Jerusalem, and Batrawy from Dubai. AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee contributed from Washington. AP writer Josef Federman contributed from Jerusalem and AP writer Samy Magdy contributed from Cairo.

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