Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a trip that would have been unthinkable just three years ago when he became the first Israeli leader to visit the states of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. This historic trip was just the latest achievement for the Abraham Accords — the Trump administration’s enormously successful Middle East peace initiative.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz made another historic visit to Bahrain this month, meeting with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and signing an agreement formalizing security ties between the two countries. A member of the Israeli Navy is now permanently stationed in Bahrain.
The Abraham Accords resulted from years of negotiations by the Trump Administration to promote peace in the Middle East and relations between Israel and several Arab states — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — and enhanced regional security and economic opportunities.
The agreement was a sea change for Middle East peace efforts because the Trump administration convinced Arab states that Iran was a common threat to their security, not Israel, which could be a friend and ally. Moreover, unlike previous Middle East peace accords, the Abraham Accords moved beyond the Palestinians — who turned down a very generous agreement negotiated by Trump administration officials — by refusing to give them a veto over Arab states making peace with Israel.
Although the Abraham Accords were initially mocked by the mainstream media and the foreign policy establishment, they are now widely viewed as highly successful on both sides of the political aisle. They were so successful that Jared Kushner, former senior adviser to the president and the chief negotiator of the Accords, recently was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for the second time.
Support for the Abraham Accords in the United States is far from universal. Many progressive groups oppose the agreement because they support Palestinian rights and express increasingly fierce criticism of the State of Israel.
“The Squad” — a group of hard-left Democratic House Members comprised of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush — strongly opposes the Accords and has pressured the Biden administration to withdraw from them. Ms. Omar has claimed the agreements were intended to sell arms to human rights abusers and increase the risk of war with Iran. Mr. Bowman opposes the agreement because he claims it is designed to isolate the Palestinians.
Opposition from The Squad and others on the left to the Abraham Accords should not be underestimated. Although the agreement has strong bipartisan support in Congress, it has only lukewarm support from Biden officials who were hostile toward it at the start of the administration.
Last fall, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Biden administration wanted to expand the Abraham Accords. However, its interest in appeasing Palestinian leaders and U.S. progressive groups and its efforts to salvage the deeply flawed 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (the JCPOA) raises questions about how committed the current administration really is to the agreement.
Supporters of the Abraham Accords cannot rest on their laurels. The recent bipartisan Congressional Abraham Accords Caucus is one way to protect the Accords from possible slippage in support by the Biden administration. More important will be more aggressive congressional oversight next year of Biden Middle East policy — including the U.S.-Israel relations and the Iranian nuclear program — if control of the House and Senate changes after the November 2022 midterm elections.
• Fred Fleitz served as the National Security Council chief of staff in the Trump administration, a CIA analyst and a House Intelligence Committee staff member. He is currently vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security.