06.03.2023 Author: Viktor Mikhin

The fabled Abraham Accords and their significance

USA Israel Abraham Accords

The so-called Abraham Accords are a series of agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco that have been closely mediated and supervised by the US. The Israelis claim that relations with Sudan, which Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen recently visited, will be normalized later this year.

Under former US President Donald Trump, the two original Arab parties formally signed an agreement on the White House lawn on September 15, 2020, to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. A similar agreement was concluded on December 10, 2020, between Morocco and Israel.

Despite Israel’s high expectations, the scope and ideas of the Abraham Accords failed to attract new Arab participants after the so-called “deal of the century” hyped by the US. At the same time, these normalization agreements were met with dissatisfaction, particularly among members of the so-called Arab Resistance Front.

The leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, stated that “some governments have unfortunately made great mistakes and sinned in normalizing [their relations] with the usurper and oppressive Zionist regime.” According to a representative of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, some Arab states have invented religious pretexts to justify Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. Iraq, for its part, approved a law forbidding any form of normalization of relations with the “Zionist enemy.” Yemen declared that the “losers” who sought normalization “will soon regret their actions.” Naturally, the Palestinians condemned the three Arab states’ actions, calling them a stab in the back to their Arab brothers.

When we examine these normalization agreements, we find five issues that are ostensibly in the interests of both parties, but only Israel benefits from them. The issue is primarily water and the distribution of water resources in the Middle Eastern region, and as we all know, water scarcity remains the most pressing issue in West Asia. Countries rely on water for survival, and water scarcity has a negative impact on economic stability and agricultural and industrial growth. Water cooperation is expected to be centered on the startup ecosystem under the normalization agreements.

The agreement between Israel, Jordan, and the UAE, for example, called for Israel to supply Jordan with water in exchange for Jordan to export solar energy. However, Jordanians are still waiting for the promised water, while solar energy has been flowing into Israeli territory for quite some time. Because climate change is causing water scarcity, one option under these agreements is to establish a fund to support water-related projects.

Last October, the Abraham Accords signatories met in the southern Israeli city of Eilat to discuss food shortages. Participants in the Israeli Negev Forum also discussed cooperation in the fields of energy, regional security, tourism, food security, water supply, and health. A planned meeting at this year’s Negev Forum, however, was reportedly canceled due to an increase in Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians in the occupied territories.

According to Israeli officials, Israel and Bahrain signed an agreement on agricultural cooperation in October. The Israeli regime signed agreements with both Morocco and Bahrain after a Bahraini delegation had visited the occupied Palestinian territories. The signing occurred at an international conference in the Israeli city of Eilat, which focused on “aquaculture innovations as part of global efforts for food security.” Officials from the UAE were also present.  During a recent trip to the UAE as part of Washington’s rather futile efforts to develop the Abraham Accords, Jose Fernandez, US Undersecretary of State, stated that he had discussed specific projects, but no progress had been made.

According to their representatives, Israel and the United States want to promote the Abraham Accords through various activities such as sports, economic, social, educational, and cultural events. The Abraham Accords, the Western media bragged, allegedly created a plethora of educational and cultural opportunities for the member parties. Indeed, the most important aspect of cooperation under the Abraham Accords is education in a region where nearly 65% of the population is under 30. This opens the door to educational collaboration and efforts to expand academic exchange programs.

But it begs the question: Why are the United States and Israel so eager to provide these abundant opportunities to the Arab youth? Various polls show that young people in Arab countries that have normalized relations with Israel have a rather negative view of the latter. As the Palestinian newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida pointed out, the Israelis hope to change the perception of their country among the new Arab generation through such exchange programs “at the cost of Palestinian blood.”

Tel Aviv hopes that these exchange programs will instill in Arab youth distorted, hand-picked, false facts about Israel. Academic exchange programs are already in place. A delegation of Moroccan students studied at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University last summer. Several Emirati students have already been accepted to universities in Israel. What will the Israeli rabbis teach them?

According to Israeli leadership statements, another aspect of the Abraham Accords is such “political measures” as security and social ones, which have not yet been implemented as quickly as Tel Aviv would like. At the same time, the UAE and Israel are gradually expanding their military cooperation. According to reports, US-Israeli integrated military radar systems have been or may be deployed in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Israel is said to have “purchased an island” from Bahrain, which has sparked outrage not only among activists but also among many Bahrainis who oppose the ongoing normalization.

The Abraham Accord Peace Institute, or AAPI, is one of the most important institutions working in the areas of water, food, agriculture, education, and cultural cooperation. According to reports, AAPI is the main institution actively setting the US agenda for encouraging other Arab countries to join. Total trade between Israel and Abraham Accord signatory countries increased from $593 million in 2019 to $3.47 billion in 2022, according to AAPI. Last year, Israel imported $2.57 billion in goods and services from these countries, up from $378.3 million three years earlier, and exported $903.9 million, up from $224.8 million.

The Atlantic Council’s think tank is actively advocating for the expansion of the Abraham Accords to include new Arab members. To that end, it has launched a program known as the N7 Initiative Project, which now develops ideas and recommendations for governments acting as a clearinghouse for relations normalization. In March, Abu Dhabi will host a conference on agriculture, water, and food security to “help build personal relationships between government officials and opinion leaders.”

According to Draft Initiative No. 7, a top leadership conference will be held in the occupied Palestinian territories in the spring to discuss “energy, tourism, health, and regional security.” A third meeting, focusing on trade, will also be held in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

According to the newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida, Jared Kushner, the former US president’s son-in-law, “A prominent Zionist was instrumental in the Abraham Accords.” According to the Arab press, other figures actively advocating for the agreement’s expansion include Robert Greenaway, president of the AAPI and self-proclaimed chief architect of the historic Abraham Accords. The Hudson Institute indicates that Greenaway served as a senior US intelligence officer and is a veteran of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was a high-ranking US government official responsible for developing, coordinating and implementing US policy toward West Asia and North Africa. He is actively pushing Israel to create an intelligence unit in the Ministry of Tourism to “specifically deal with the Abraham Accord countries, encourage investment in the hotel business and create reciprocal e-visa schemes with these countries.”

The same newspaper wrote that “another American Zionist,” Avi Berkowitz, is an active actor in the Abraham Accords. He worked closely with Kushner before serving in the White House under Trump. In June 2020, Berkowitz suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sign a kind of Abraham Accords with the Palestinians as an alternative to the annexation of the West Bank.

Asher Fredman, director for Israel at AAPI, acknowledged that “part of the Israeli population has the feeling that these agreements have not directly benefited them.” To change this, he added, Israel and its allies in the US should promote projects that bring “mutual benefits to Israelis and Arabs in the Agreement countries, and we should report on the impact of these benefits.”

Bahraini royal family member Sheikha Jawaher Al Khalifa was over the moon to visit Israel on a business trip, saying: “I had the honor and pleasure of having a wonderful dinner with some of my colleagues. I was there [in Israel]. I loved it. And I’m very proud of it.” I wonder if she is also proud of the Israeli massacres last year and this year, or of the fact that Palestinians (unlike her) cannot even travel in their own homeland.

Viktor Mikhin, Corresponding Member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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