Over the last month, there has been a blossoming of activity to advance the Abraham Accords across the Middle East. Visits by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to Bahrain in February coincided with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Gantz and Bahraini Defense Minister Abdullah Bin Hassan Al Nuaimi.
According to Gantz, the memorandum will “help advance intelligence cooperation, provide a framework for exercises, and enhance cooperation between the countries’ defense industries.” These visits are a positive sign that the Abraham Accords are not only flourishing, but creating new opportunities for the United States, Israel, and its Gulf allies to advance peace and prosperity in the region.
Negotiated by the Trump administration and signed in September 2020 by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and later Sudan and Morocco, the Abraham Accords were the first successful peace overtures since Israel signed peace agreements with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Further integration of Israel into the region is vital given the threats posed by Iran and its proxy networks in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
Headlines week after week document drone and missile attacks from the Houthis in Yemen and Iranian proxies in Iraq targeting cities in Saudi Arabia and most recently, the United Arab Emirates. These attacks complement Iran’s proxy shadow war strategy to threaten the U.S. and its allies in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Syria.
With the help of the Abraham Accords, Israel, the United States, and its Arab allies are developing new ways to deter Iran’s aggression. Israel’s admittance into the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility has allowed for better integration of intelligence capabilities, technical expertise, and security systems with Abraham Accord countries and others under the umbrella of CENTCOM like Saudi Arabia.
As recently as Feb. 2, Israel participated in a naval exercise that included Saudi Arabia. This would have been inconceivable even a few years ago. In November, Israeli and Emirati state-owned defense companies signed a deal to jointly develop semi-to-fully autonomous naval vessels to combat Iranian anti-ship mines at sea. There are reports that Israel is currently negotiating an agreement with the UAE to sell Israeli air defense technology to better deter Houthi attacks.
These security agreements aren’t the only areas in which strides have been made. There has also been fruit on the investment side. Fahad Al Gergawi, CEO of Dubai FDI, has stated that a dozen projects, ranging from health care, insurance, and finance, have been brought to Dubai from Israel totaling over $250 million of investment.
Since President Donald Trump’s departure, the Biden team has failed to make progress on the accords despite its initial pledge to support and expand the accords to other Arab nations. Lackluster promotion of the Abraham Accords is a missed opportunity for the Biden administration to strengthen U.S. ties in a region that are vital to U.S. national interest.
In the absence of active leadership, Congress has stepped forward to champion the accords by creating the Abraham Accords Caucus. This caucus is a bipartisan group chaired by Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., that works with members in both the House and the Senate to promote the accords. The caucus sends a clear signal to Israel and its new Arab allies that Congress is committed to advancing these relationships with or without the Biden administration’s support.
Most importantly, the caucus provides a platform for Congress to demonstrate its bipartisan support of the state of Israel. Over the past few years, Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and other progressive members of the Democratic Party have put pressure on party leadership to adopt an anti-Israel stance, something that the Democratic base has started to reflect.
A poll taken last summer showed that 51% of Democrats think that the U.S. provides too much support for Israel. With the delay by progressive members of Congress in the House to vote to replenish the Iron Dome, continued bipartisan support of Israel is even more important.
The Abraham Accords have created new defense, investment, and political opportunities for the United States to bring together its Arab partners and Israel, something that will have a beneficial impact on the region as it faces enormous pressure by Iran and its proxies.
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