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‘Abraham Accords are going to continue shaping the Middle East’

September 18, 2021

By Omri Nahmias

WASHINGTON – Representatives from member countries of the Abraham Accords gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington on Tuesday to mark one year since the normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

The event was hosted by the “Abraham Accords Peace Institute,” established by Jared Kushner earlier this year. Kushner had served as senior adviser to then-president Trump and played a significant role in facilitating the agreements.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s ambassador to the US, told The Jerusalem Post he feels very privileged to mark one year from the agreements, “not only because of what has already been done in terms of progress, but also to look at how the Abraham Accords are going to shape the future of the region, as we see more and more collaboration happening between members of the accords and working multilaterally and bilaterally as well.

“I think we are at a very good time where there’s an appetite for more collaboration,” he said. “The last year was spent on the foundation, where we were making sure that people who wanted to interact with one another have the means to interact with one another. And I think we’re at the stage now where we can look at the future and look at future partnerships, and explore each other’s benefits and know-how, and to benefit all our people.”

Ted Deutch (D-Florida), who serves as chairman for the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Post, “It’s impossible not to be optimistic one year in, given what we’ve already seen.

“Government officials got this started, created opportunities in national security and politics. Business leaders provide a lot of chances for greater economic growth, but the people-to-people program creates a chance to really reshape the region,” Deutch said.

“The Biden administration understands that. They’re committed to strengthening and building upon the Abraham Accords and, of course, bringing more countries to the table. I’m optimistic that they will, and there’s bipartisan legislation that we’re moving through Congress that will actually focus Congress and [the] administration’s attention in doing just that.”

MKs Ruth Wasserman Lande (Blue and White) and Ofir Akunis (Likud), co-chairs of the Knesset Caucus for the Promotion and Implementation of the Abraham Accords, attended the event as well.

Israel’s Ambassador to the US and to the UN Gilad Erdan spoke with the Post about the recent New York Times report indicating that Iran is just weeks away from having enough uranium for a nuclear weapon.

“I think it doesn’t make a real difference if the Iranians are one month or two months or three months [away], they are closer than ever to becoming a nuclear threshold state,” Erdan said. “And in addition to the fact that they have the most radical president ever, their supreme leader still believes that Iran should possess a nuclear bomb.

“This is a huge red flag to the international community: Do something about it. You cannot continue allowing Iran to drag its feet, playing its game of maneuvering, and simultaneously advancing its nuclear capability. Because we will wake up one day [and realize that] it might be too late.

“This is the time to act, and I hope to see the international community getting together and making it clear to Iran that they’re going to pay a huge price for this illegal advancement.”

Kushner noted in his speech that the agreements received bipartisan support and he expressed hope they would continue to expand.

“If these agreements are not nurtured, we run the risk that they could go backward. But if we nourish them properly, the potential for what can come from them is enormous and beyond our expectations.”

YAEL LEMPERET, acting assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, said at the event that just over a year ago, “it was impossible to imagine, for example, UAE-financed water or energy deals that could benefit Palestinians and Israelis alike – but now that is just another commercial investment.

“There are so many areas of complementarity and mutual benefit between Israel, Arab states and the Palestinians – we are still just scratching the surface,” she said.

“By making Israel more secure and opening new channels for constructive dialogue and diplomacy, even more new possibilities can arise. By lowering barriers, we’re empowering people on both sides to dream up their own possibilities.”

NBA player and activist Enes Kanter attended the event as well.

“I came to this event because I know how important this event is for building bridges,” Kanter told the Post.

“My goal is always to bring communities together and to use basketball as a tool, especially [with] the young generation, to break down barriers and open the minds of the next generation. I think it’s really important and I learned a lot from this event.”

He added that he recently organized a basketball camp in LA with Muslim and Jewish children, “and it was so much fun.

“I feel like we must build the bridges of peace, understanding and love. It’s really important, and that’s why I just wanted to come and educate myself.”

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch in Washington, said, “I don’t really like announcements as much as I like celebrations of achievement.

“Even though COVID has affected the world commerce, it seems that this deal – which is of course between governments, but even more so between people – is showing the undeniable truth of the Middle East situation: If people will talk only about the modern context of 70 or so years, peace is a very difficult challenge,” Shemtov said.

“If, however, we zoom out a little bit and see the multi-millennia connection between the Jewish people and Israel, the region itself manifestly responds to that much better.”


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