Time for the United States to expand the Abraham Accords - opinion

There is a troubling trend that the US administration is derailing a historic achievement in the Middle East.

 PRESIDENT JOE Biden is flanked by leaders of Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and Kuwait at the Jeddah Security and Development Summit (GCC+3), in July. (photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/REUTERS)
PRESIDENT JOE Biden is flanked by leaders of Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and Kuwait at the Jeddah Security and Development Summit (GCC+3), in July.
(photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/REUTERS)

The Biden administration’s ill-advised policies in the Middle East are undermining America’s recent success, shunning trusted allies including Saudi Arabia and Israel, and appeasing Iran, a regime driven by its dangerous aim to develop nuclear weapons and terrorize its neighbors. While many in the region view an uncertain future, it is worth reviewing America’s positive engagement in the Middle East, and why the US must lead again through principled leadership.

Throughout the past century, American leadership has had a profound impact in Israel and the Middle East, notably as the first nation to recognize the Jewish state’s independence officially nearly 75 years ago, partnering with Israel to protect its sovereignty through military aid, and supporting peace initiatives with its neighbors in the region.

Since Israel’s independence in 1948, the US has provided the Jewish state with billions of dollars of US taxpayer funds. This includes military and economic aid, money for refugee resettlement, and aid for American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA), as well as loan guarantees.

American leadership was instrumental in supporting the Camp David Accords signed by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, a game-changer for the region. The Camp David Accords were a precursor to the Abraham Accords, a US-led endeavor that normalized Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. 

The promise of US leadership to expand this successful initiative has not only lost momentum in Washington, but there is a troubling trend that the administration is derailing a historic achievement in the region. The initiative that brought courageous nations of the Abrahamic religions together, to augment peace and prosperity, has stalled. 

The Biden administration’s initial approach was to undermine the initiative and even shun the term “Abraham Accords” and call them “normalization agreements.” In its quest to sign a deal with Iran, the US is seeking what appears to be a new equation in which its allies are downgraded in the name of balance.

The Biden administration’s misguided approach and its failure to advance and expand the Abraham Accords reveal a troubling sign for leaders in the region who seek peace and economic certainty to attract investments, jobs and innovation. 

Relations with Saudi Arabia, once a staunch US ally and a significant power in the region, worsened as Democratic leaders in Congress issued an ultimatum to the energy-rich nation to reverse a decision made by OPEC+ to limit oil production or endure “a potential one-year freeze on all arms sales,” as reported by The Guardian.

Saudi Arabia’s response to the Biden administration was to welcome China, the second largest energy consumer in the world, which is also America’s emerging adversary on the global stage. Soon after President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Saudis co-hosted the first China-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit with Arab states. 

And thanks to the Biden administration, the Abraham Accords, the most promising peace initiative in the Middle East, remains an under-reported success story in America’s major media broadcast channels and broadsheets.

Today, American entrepreneurs, business entities and engaged citizens have not been fully informed about the tangible successes of this peace and prosperity dividend for the region, and many have not heard that a potential trade agreement between Israel and the UAE would exceed $10 billion over the next five years.

Will America’s leadership take note of the realities on the ground and affirm policies that yield positive results, or will it remain a laggard and fuel greater divisions in the Middle East? 

What is the solution? 

A SOLUTION to address this notable shift in American leadership toward Israel and the region’s Gulf states is to call on the new leadership in the House of Representatives, prudent members of the Senate and US state governors to revitalize talks with Saudi Arabia and engage a major US ally to join the Abraham Accords. 

The speaker of the House and members of the Republican party must assert leadership. The nation’s founding document provides clear guidance to exert the legislative branch’s responsibility in the arena of commerce with foreign nations. The Constitution gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states.”

Herein lies the unique opportunity for the incoming speaker of the House of Representatives and members of Congress to articulate a bold vision for a US-backed free, fair and reciprocal trade agreement with countries signing up to the Abraham Accords.

As the world faces an economic downturn through an impending recession in the West during 2023, a bold American-led Abraham Accords’ free trade agreement would propel economic opportunities, and unleash capital and investments benefiting individual citizens and investors.

Saudi Arabia, known for taking steps to move away from oil dependency, could become the leading country to affirm this pro-growth policy for the Middle East. Through the Abraham Accords, it could join the efforts “to pursue a vision of peace, security and prosperity in the Middle East and around the world” as agreed by the original signatories and their partners.

America’s elected officials in Congress and governors have led successful foreign trade missions with tangible results. Leaders representing Israel and America’s private enterprises joined by Israel’s incoming government should rally behind the Middle East’s most successful peace and trade initiative. Israel’s small- and medium-sized enterprises will benefit greatly from the expansion of the Abraham Accords.

Supporting the policy of expanding the Abraham Accords by engaging nations such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and other Arab nations would usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and stability for the region and beyond. 

President Ronald Reagan provided a guiding principle when talking about commerce among people and nations, and how its noble aims deter conflicts: “Free trade serves the cause of economic progress, and it serves the cause of world peace.” 

It is a worthy challenge for the incoming leadership in Congress, eager to shake up Washington’s status quo; a new government in Israel aspiring to forge new alliances in the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia’s goals to transform its economy.

Robust efforts to jump-start the principled Abraham Accords will create jobs, fuel economic growth and advance peace and stability in the Middle East.

Natasha Srdoc, MBA, and Joel Anand Samy, are co-founders of the International Leaders Summit and Jerusalem Leaders Summit. They co-host America’s Roundtable Radio, aired on 65 US radio stations.