Miami Herald

Biden embraces a Trump policy in backing Arab-Israeli deals

- BY ELLEN KNICKMEYER, AYA BATRAWY AND LAURIE KELLMAN

The Biden administra­tion is laying the groundwork for a renewed push to encourage more Arab countries to sign accords with Israel and working to strengthen existing deals after last month’s devastatin­g war in the Gaza Strip interrupte­d those diplomatic efforts.

The embrace of the so-called Abraham Accords is a rare carryover of a signature Trump administra­tion policy by President Joe Biden and other Democrats.

The Trump administra­tion put U.S. clout and incentives into landing the country-by-country pacts by four Arab states last year, easing enmity and isolation for the Jewish state in the Middle East that had dated back to Israel’s 1948 founding. The Biden administra­tion saw significan­t prospects of several other Arab government­s signing accords soothing and normalizin­g relations with Israel. U.S. officials have declined to publicly identify the countries they regard as promising prospects.

Sudan, which signed a general declaratio­n of peaceful intent but has not yet signed on to diplomatic relations with Israel, had been a prospect. Oman, which has a policy of non-interferen­ce that allows it to be a broker across the Middle East’s fault lines, long has been seen by Westerners as a likely contender.

But the 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s

Hamas militant rulers last month has complicate­d U.S.-backed diplomacy for new Abraham accords.

The fighting “has strengthen­ed the conviction of opponents of normalizat­ion” with Israel, activist Doura Gambo said in Sudan. Sudanese were already divided over their government’s agreement last year to become one of the four Arab states signing accords. In Sudan’s case, the Trump administra­tion offered financial relief from U.S. sanctions.

Last month’s bloodshed, which killed 254 Palestinia­ns — including 66 children and at least 22 members of one family — resonated deeply with the Arab public, including in the other countries that had signed accords with Israel: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. Thirteen people died in Israel, including two children and one soldier.

The Biden administra­tion is considerin­g appointing a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, to a Mideast role that would marshal and potentiall­y expand the country-by-country accords between Israel and Mideast government­s.

U.S. officials also are working to encourage more business, education and other ties among the four Arab states and Israel.

Last year, the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab country in over two decades to establish ties with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, respective­ly. It was a move that bypassed the Palestinia­ns, who saw it as betrayal.

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