Abraham Accords: Relationships without maintenance go stale - opinion

Key New Year’s resolutions to enhance and expand the Abraham Accords.

 Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, waits outside the Kedma Hotel, the location of "The Negev Summit," attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the Foreign Ministers of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt in Sde Boker, Israel, March 28, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, waits outside the Kedma Hotel, the location of "The Negev Summit," attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the Foreign Ministers of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt in Sde Boker, Israel, March 28, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

September 15 was the second anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House. Then-president Donald Trump hosted the prime minister of Israel and foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain, as they collectively signed a document that changed the trajectory of the Middle East. The Abraham Accords, like any relationship, needs to be nurtured and expanded or it will wither and retreat.

Over the course of the past two years, some of the novelty has worn off. It is no longer surprising to hear Hebrew spoken on the streets of Manama or Dubai. It is normal to see Royal Air Maroc and Etihad Airways flights departing Ben-Gurion Airport, and El Al planes in UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. Many firsts have happened and undoubtedly there are still many firsts to occur but for these Accords to achieve their maximum potential they need to mature into the next stage: dividend-yielding relationships. Many pundits have expressed the miraculous and exciting nature of these accords but not enough people have explained their geo-strategic importance for the signatory countries and the United States.

The Middle East has been a challenging region that resembles the carnival game Whac-A-Mole. Every time you look there is a problem and once you knock that problem down another one arises. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and the list goes on. The never-ending challenges that have occurred in the Middle East are in part because of the lack of a coherent unifying message to develop the Middle East into a place of peace and prosperity, instead of strife and chaos.

The Abraham Accords deliver that unifying coherent message. The fact that the Abraham Accords began with some of the most stable, forward-looking US allies in the region allowed those countries to begin publicly working together not just for the good of their nations but for the good of the region. Whether we like it or not, the Middle East is a critical region for world power.

For the past decades it has served as the energy hub of the world, in future decades it will also be a supply chain and logistics center for more than one-third of the world’s population, finally, and no less importantly it serves as the spiritual home for more than two-thirds of the world. For these reasons and more it is important to build a Middle East alliance that is capable of doing more than Whac-A-Mole, but rather creating a peaceful and prosperous region, deeply aligned with the US. If we fail in building this Abraham Accords confederation then the unholy alliance of Iran, China and Russia will continually push the region back into what the Middle East has historically been best at – chaos and despair.

 AFTER SIGNING the Abraham Accords, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain (left) and UAE display their copies as then-US president Donald Trump looks on, at the White House, September 15, 2020. (credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS) AFTER SIGNING the Abraham Accords, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain (left) and UAE display their copies as then-US president Donald Trump looks on, at the White House, September 15, 2020. (credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS)

How can we protect the Abraham Accords?

WHAT CAN be done to ensure these accords grow and flourish? Just like during any New Year season, it is appropriate to make New Year’s resolutions.

The US should resolve that it is done negotiating with Iran unless and until they return to the table having agreed to the 12 points that then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo articulated as US policy in May of 2018. That decision, if delivered clearly and decisively, will do more to invigorate the momentum around the Abraham Accords than any other single action.

In return, each Abraham Accord nation will resolve to develop a regional approach to Iran and included in this approach will be a more coherent approach to Iran’s top allies, China and Iran.

Israel must resolve to designate a ministry to enhance and advance its new Abraham Accord relationships. This ministry must be above politics, allowing clear and consistent lines of communication and policy implementation by Israel for the Abraham Accord countries.

Morocco, Bahrain and the UAE will resolve to have senior-level visits to Israel in the next year, and to encourage more business and cultural delegations to follow their lead.

Two years is enough time for these accords to be considered pivotal for the signatory countries. With the adoption of these New Year’s resolutions, they will become transformative for the entire region. The transformation of the region into an area of peace and prosperity will greatly enhance the US’ competition with China, and at the same time will weaken Iran and Russia.

Failure to enhance and advance these accords could leave the region as it has always been: a series of bifurcated and fractured relationships, leaving a vacuum for China, Iran and Russia to grow and spread their influence. The contrast couldn’t be more clear.

The writer served as senior adviser to the US ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021, and was tasked with putting the Abraham Accords into action. He is the author of Let My People Know: The Incredible Story of Middle East Peace – and What Lies Ahead (Encounter Books, July 2022). Follow him on Twitter: @lightstonea.