In a rare moment of clarity, President Joe Biden has decided not to play partisan politics in at least one area: The Middle East. In most other cases, the president has set himself up as the anti-Trump, reversing many of his predecessor’s policies especially when it concerns immigration. But during his trip to the Middle East, the president touted former President Donald Trump’s Abraham Accords and looked to build on this successful foreign policy initiative.
President Biden arrived in Jerusalem, Israel, on July 13 to meet with officials and discuss how America might help facilitate the process of normalizing relationships between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors. This effort began under Trump and was spearheaded by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who also served as a key adviser in his administration.
The Abraham Accords initiative began in 2020 and was seen as a major foreign policy success. Even folks on the left grudgingly admitted Trump’s team was highly effective in brokering economic deals between Israel and countries like Bahrain, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco. These deals were major accomplishments because most Arab nations indicated they would refuse to negotiate peace accords with the Jewish state until the Palestinians were granted sovereignty.
However, the Trump administration managed to persuade these nations to reconsider their positions. It appears the White House under Biden will seek to continue what began under the previous occupant of the Oval Office. “We’ll continue to advance Israel’s integration into the region, expand emerging forums and engagement,” Biden said. “Greater peace, greater stability, greater connection. It’s critical. It’s critical, if I might add, for all the people of the region.”
Biden’s team has stressed the importance of the process despite Israel’s troubled history with its Arab neighbors. “Part of the purpose — the trip to the Middle East — is to deepen Israel’s integration into the region, which I think we’re going to be able to do – which is good for peace, and good for Israeli security,” the president explained, “And that’s why Israeli leaders have come out so strongly for my going to Saudi.”
Benefits of the Abraham Accords
Since the inception of the accords, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have seen economic benefits. Tourism has blossomed in both countries. About 200,000 Israelis have traveled to the UAE over the past year now that trade has been opened up between the two nations. Businesses in the UAE are allowed to serve Jewish tourists with kosher buffets. They have turned ballrooms into synagogues for the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Israel will also have an official pavilion at the Dubai Expo when it opens in October.
It is worth noting that while the president did not hesitate to embrace the policy, there were indications that some in his administration were not too keen on the idea. In the first few months of Biden’s stint in the White House, State Department officials refrained from using the Abraham Accords moniker and instead referred to them as “normalization agreements.”
A senior US official told CNN that some in the White House “didn’t want to give Trump credit” by using the term. Far be it from folks on the left to admit Trump actually did something positive, right? However, the administration later came around and started using the name.
Others have criticized the president for allowing his predecessor to be tied to the successful foreign policy strategy. Jonathan H. Ferziger, in a piece for Foreign Policy, wrote:
“The apathy with which the Biden administration has treated the coming anniversary of the Abraham Accords reflects a tin ear. Letting Trump retain ownership of this breakthrough in Arab-Israeli peacemaking and not working aggressively to extend its reach is a mistake on which Republicans are sure to capitalize as they plot their return to the White House in three more years.”
In 2022, America is so politically polarized that even foreign policy cannot completely escape the effect of hyper-partisanship. While Biden did not seem fazed by the idea of giving Trump credit for his Middle East policy, it clearly bothered members of his administration, some of whom tried distracting from the previous administration’s accomplishments purely for political purposes.
Nevertheless, it appears the White House is finally doing something right when it comes to foreign policy. While the Abraham Accords did not begin under the Biden administration, if it manages to expand the initiative even further, it will also get credit for its success. The result would be a win not only for the Middle East and Israel but also for the United States.