Supporters of Abraham Accords mark third anniversary at US Capitol
On Wednesday, 13 September, the Atlantic Council held an event at the US Capitol featuring speakers from the congressional Abraham Accords Caucus, diplomats and others involved in the continued process of the 15 September 2020 agreement.
This is part of the N7 Initiative (N for normalisation and 7 for Israel and the six Arab countries that have announced some form of normalisation). It is a partnership between the Atlantic Council and the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation, which seeks to develop regional integration between Israel and Arab and Muslim countries, including Africa.
"As we look at what's ahead, we first met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was so positive with ranking member Dean Philips, and it was just inspiring to be with him," said Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, describing his recent trip to the Middle East to a crowded room at the US Capitol Visitor Center.
"And then to meet with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia was particularly meaningful to me in that the first thing I thanked him for was signing the agreement for US$37 billion worth of Boeing aircraft, 787 Dreamliners, which are made in South Carolina. I understand they may double the order, and that would be very good," he said.
"We then discussed, indeed, the efforts ongoing of working toward a relationship. In fact, the very first hearing that we had of the Middle East Subcommittee was to review the success of the Abraham Accords, and my concluding statement was that I look forward to continuing this particular hearing when there is an agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which I believe will occur," he said which he believes would be "mutually advantageous" to both countries and the region.
"I believe they're ironing out details as we speak," he said.
Representative Kathy Manning of South Carolina described the Abraham Accords as transformational and said adding Saudi Arabia would make the agreement more transformational.
"We'd like to see what the components of the deal might be, make sure that they are not only in the interest of the region but also in the US interest," she said. "But, of course, we have to say that adding Saudi Arabia will make an enormous difference. And also, we haven't specified, but all of this will help create a bulwark against Iran."
The Abraham Accords, an agreement negotiated under the last administration by former President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, aims to normalise relations between Israel and Arab countries. This includes free movement of citizens between countries, education and cultural exchanges, and security cooperation.
Though Democrats broadly criticised the agreement at the time, it has generally come to be seen as a positive step by members of both parties over the past three years.
At Wednesday's conference, Congress members touted the Accords as one of the few bipartisan success stories in today's divided partisan politics. The word "bipartisan" was used repeatedly throughout the panel discussions. Although there are Democratic members of the Abraham Accords Caucus, they tend to be centrist-leaning party members.
Largely missing from the panel discussions was the role of the Palestinians in the deal, which was mentioned occasionally to say that they had rejected the Abraham Accords but that it had the potential to help them prosper.
For most of the afternoon's conference, the panel's moderators did not push back on the speakers' positions or challenge their views. However, toward the end, a moderator asked if it was possible if they had a false sense of hope and if they ran the risk of overlooking genuine threats. The speakers acknowledged that they believed most of the hard work lay ahead.