President Biden must engage with the Abraham Accords

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - FEBRUARY 26: Local Jewish residents and tourists pray during Purim at The Address Hotel Marina in Dubai on February 26, 2021 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The small but vibrant community has become more visible since the signing of the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.  (Photo by Andrea DiCenzo/Getty Images)

The new administration in Washington would be missing an historic opportunity if it fails to seize the momentum behind the agreement

Donald Trump left the White House in disgrace. The only US president to be impeached twice by the House of Representatives – the Senate acquitted him both times – Mr Trump remains a central focus of congressional efforts to investigate the January 6 Capitol riots, which he stands accused of having instigated. His once prolific Twitter account has been suspended permanently. The legacy of his chaotic foray into domestic and foreign policy remains the subject of bitter partisan discord – with one notable exception.

Brokering the Abraham Accords, the set of agreements signed in September that normalised Israel’s ties with the UAE and Bahrain, was arguably Mr Trump's only significant diplomatic achievement to win praise from Republicans and Democrats alike. For any imperfections, the deal has already opened the door to broader reconciliation; Israel established formal ties subsequently with both Sudan and Morocco. The imperatives of global security dictate that this venture must not be allowed to fail.

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Mr Biden should make the Abraham Accords his own

The specific nomenclature of the Abraham Accords – a familiar trademark from the Trump era – should not deter his successor, Joe Biden, from embracing the innovative substance of the framework.

Continuity of US involvement is important in strengthening these groundbreaking relationships between the Gulf states and Israel – a welcome break from years of trying to mitigate problems that existed between them. The expanded normalisation of ties among these former adversaries enhances regional stability and amplifies the reach of what could become a contemporary version of the vaunted Pax Americana. It provides breathing room for the US and its allies to address the world's other pressing challenges.

Peace between long-time foes serves as a force multiplier in acting against those in the Middle East who perpetuate strife and hostility. That is precisely why the US and other stakeholders in the region should try to ensure the success of this process through all means at their disposal. Last October's launch of the Abraham Fund – a trilateral $3 billion initiative of the US International Development Finance Corporation, the UAE and Israel – was a significant step in this direction. The programme seeks to mobilise "private sector-led investment and development initiatives to promote regional economic co-operation and prosperity in the Middle East and beyond". It also invites additional partners to participate in strategic infrastructure projects designed to foster hope and reconciliation.

FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2020 file photo, a rabbi officiates under a traditional Jewish wedding canopy during marriage ceremony of the Israeli couple Noemie Azerad, left seated under the canopy, and Simon David Benhamou, at a hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Half a year after the UAE and Bahrain established diplomatic relations with Israel, Gulf Jewish communities are emerging from the shadows and raising their public profiles. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)

Recent media reports have suggested that the new administration could wind up leaving the Abraham Fund to wither on the vine. That would be an unfortunate development. It would be wiser to resolve confusion surrounding the current fate of the endowment and to leverage its work, instead, to pursue positive change in line with American interests. Even worse would be if the accomplishments of the Abraham Accords themselves were neglected and allowed to disintegrate. Their demise would weaken the edifice of peace, with devastating consequences for the future of multilateral co-ordination in exploring renewed engagement with Iran.

The hour is ripe to capitalise on a breakthrough that has brought down barriers that seemed impermeable between Arabs and Israelis, many of whom are now meeting each other up close for the first time. On October 15, the Atlantic Council, the Emirates Policy Centre in Abu Dhabi and the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv inaugurated a first-of-its-kind collaborative hub to advance this enterprise.

March 1 saw Mohamed Al Khaja, the first Emirati ambassador to Israel, present his credentials to that country's President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. More milestones are certain to follow. The announcement by US State Department spokesman Ned Price that Mr Biden hopes to help forge "a historic peace" between Saudi Arabia and Israel indicates that the President does not want to squander the opportunity he inherited from the previous administration.

Mr Biden should make the Abraham Accords his own. Picking up where Mr Trump left off, he can build on the deal, welcome new members into the club and cement Israel's acceptance in the Middle East. There is even an outside chance that this rapprochement will create new conditions that could persuade Palestinians and Israelis to come to terms with each other finally. Investing resources to help strengthen the budding partnership between the Gulf states and Israel is a win-win proposition for the US and its Middle East allies that is simply too good to neglect.

Shalom Lipner and Jonathan Ferziger are non-resident senior fellows at the Atlantic Council in Washington

Shalom Lipner

Shalom Lipner

Shalom Lipner is a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington. He is also a member of a working group exploring the role of commercial and civic engagement in promoting peace between the Arab world and Israel.

Jonathan Ferziger

Jonathan Ferziger

Jonathan Ferziger is a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington. He is also a member of a working group exploring the role of commercial and civic engagement in promoting peace between the Arab world and Israel.