The Abraham Accords of 2020 for the normalization of relations between Israel and several Arab countries are beginning to bear fruit. The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt meet this Sunday in a kibbutz (collective farm) in southern Israel with the head of Israeli diplomacy, Yair Lapid, and the US Secretary of State. UU, Antony Blinken, who has started a diplomatic tour of the Middle East and the Maghreb. The unprecedented conclave, which will last until Monday in a luxurious hotel in the Negev desert, is marked by the concern raised in the region by the reactivation of the nuclear agreement with Iran, signed by Washington in 2015 and suspended three years later under the presidency of the Republican Donald Trump, that the Administration of the Democrat Joe Biden is preparing to agree with Tehran.
In a first bilateral meeting in Jerusalem with the Israeli Lapid, Blinken hastened to guarantee Washington’s “unwavering commitment” to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic weapon and to confront its threats. The Secretary of State assured that the return to the 2015 agreement “is the best way to bring Iran’s nuclear program back under control.”
The Biden Administration initially disregarded the Abraham Agreements signed in the final stretch of Trump’s presidency —thanks to the mediation of the White House— by the Jewish State with the Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. He is now trying to take advantage, however, of Israel’s normalization of diplomatic relations with countries with which he was at odds over the Palestinian conflict. Blinken told Lapid at a joint news conference that Washington hoped to “attract other states” to the Abraham Accords.
For Israel, the establishment of close relations of economic and military cooperation with Arab countries without linking it to the recognition of a Palestinian state – as provided for in the Saudi peace plan, approved by the Arab League in 2002 – represents the culmination of a decades-long diplomatic strategy . Minister Lapid has not hesitated to call the conclave “historic”. The shared threat with the Israelis represented by the regional deployment of Iran and its Shiite allies — such as the Lebanese Hezbollah militia and Yemen’s Houthi rebels — has relegated the Palestinian issue to the background in the foreign ministries of Sunni countries.
The Secretary of State was also received by the Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, who is acting as an intermediary between the presidents of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski, “in close coordination” with the US, Blinken assured. Washington seeks support in the Middle East for Western positions in the war in Ukraine after failing to get Israel and the Gulf countries to support economic sanctions against Russia, which has a significant military presence in Syria. Bennett kept his reservation about his mediating role between Moscow and kyiv, but was much more explicit in expressing the concern of Israel or its Arab partners at “the intention [de Washington] to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps from the list of terrorist organizations”, as a consequence of the nuclear agreement with Iran.
In Jerusalem, Blinken limited himself to demanding from Israel the “tangible improvement in the living conditions” of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and invoking, as a style clause, “the objective of reaching a negotiated solution based on two states ”. But he also urged the Israeli government to avoid measures that could trigger tension, such as curbing settlement expansion and settler violence toward Palestinians and halting evictions from Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. Later, he traveled to nearby Ramallah, the administrative headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, to meet with President Mahmoud Abbas and meet with representatives of Palestinian civil society.
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The State Department has stressed that the head of US diplomacy reiterates his country’s commitment “to the two-state solution,” reports Maria Antonia Sanchez-Vallejo. A memorandum on the aid given to the Palestinians was published on the website of the Department led by Blinken on Saturday. Since April 2021, Washington has provided more than 500 million dollars (457 million euros), including more than 417 million in humanitarian assistance for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA, for its acronym in English). The latest war in the Gaza Strip, last May, forced President Biden to rewrite his road map to Israel to promote the reconstruction of the Palestinian enclave.
In another memorandum on the bilateral relationship with Israel, the State Department recalls that the link has never been stronger than it is now, as evidenced, among other things, by Washington’s clear support for the Abraham Accords and the $1 billion aid of dollars granted to reload with interceptor rockets of the Iron Dome anti-missile system. The US has progressively ceased to exercise itself as the hegemonic power in the Middle East to focus on the rivalry with China, in the Pacific, and now with Russia, in Europe. Blinken’s tour seems to partially rectify this drift.
Absence of the Palestinian question in the conclave
Jordan, which has maintained relations with the Jewish state since 1994, does not plan to attend the conclave in the Negev desert, despite the fact that Israeli diplomacy has suggested that it participate, according to the Hebrew press. The Jordanian Foreign Minister will accompany King Abdullah II on Monday, however, on his announced visit to Ramallah to meet with the rais Abbas. Half of the Jordanian population is of Palestinian origin, and the Government of Amman tends to act very cautiously in a matter that is considered an internal matter. Like the US, Jordan is trying to prevent tension from escalating in the Palestinian territories ahead of the upcoming start of Ramadan in April. The escalation of violence – in East Jerusalem in particular – gave way a year ago to an armed conflict between Israel and the Islamist militias in Gaza.
The diplomatic effervescence that the Middle East is experiencing in recent days is patent. Last Tuesday they met in Sharm el Sheikh, in the Sinai Peninsula, the president of Egypt, Abdelfatá al Sisi; Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, and the ruling de facto of the United Arab Emirates, Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed. Al Sisi and Bin Zayed met again on Friday, this time with King Abdullah and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al Kadhemi, in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, also on the shores of the Red Sea. An official statement described the meeting as “consultative”. It symbolized an accolade to Jordan in the face of pressure from Israel and the US, aired by the Hebrew press, to attend the conclave of the Sde Boker kibbutz this Sunday, where the tomb of David Ben Gurion, the first head of government of the State, is located. Jewish.