Several US senators from both sides of the aisle introduced a new bill on Thursday that aims to bolster normalization efforts between Israel and its neighbors.
The Regional Integration and Normalization Act was introduced by several senators both Republican and Democrat. The main sponsors of the bill are Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and James Lankford (R-Okla.).
“The Abraham Accords and related normalization agreements are fundamentally transforming the Middle East," said Senator Risch. "It is in the United States’ interest to expand the circle of friends with Israel.”
“A strong Israel, at peace with its neighbors, is squarely in US national security interests," said Senator Mendez.
The bill has eight main goals:
- Authorizing a regional integration office, and a special presidential envoy, which would pursue additional opportunities to normalize relations with Israel and advance negotiations on a framework of economy and security.
- Establish a regional integration opportunity fund of up to $105 million which will be transferred by the special envoy to other departments or agencies to help advance regional integration and normalization, and encourage public and private sector investment.
- Authorizing new funds to deepen both the Abraham Accords and Negev Forum and expand normalization and integration. This would provide over $13 million dollars to multiple ventures relating to the Abraham Accords such as promoting interfaith dialogue, desalination efforts, and facilitating educational and cultural exchange programs between Israel and other Abraham Accords and Negev Forum countries and other partners.
- Supporting the development of an Abraham Accords and Negev Forum Economic Partnership. The special envoy would work to develop and negotiate a framework for economic development and cooperation between Abraham Accords and Negev Forum countries.
- Expanding the Israel-United States Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), and Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) by providing new grants to these funds.
- Supporting cybersecurity training and information sharing, which authorizes the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security to engage in joint cybersecurity training and information sharing activities with the Abraham Accords and Negev Forum countries.
- Establishing the Young Middle East Leaders Initiative modeled off the Young African Leaders Initiatives to provide fellowships, leadership programs, and cultural exchange opportunities for youth between 18 and 35 from Negev Forum countries, as well as from other key partners in the region.
- Supporting cross-regional structures such as the "ambitious" I2U2’s Leaders Summits & Business Forum and considering expansion of the format across the Middle East and Indo-Pacific, including with Saudi Arabia.