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Bipartisan support grows for US congressional bill expanding Arab-Israeli ties

Legislation would build on last year’s Abraham Accords between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco

Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., speaks during the House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on the administration foreign policy priorities on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Washington. (Ting Shen/Pool via AP)
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., speaks during the House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on the administration foreign policy priorities on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Washington. (Ting Shen/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The top Democratic and Republican lawmakers from the House Foreign Affairs Committee have joined a bill that supports the expansion of normalization agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

It’s a sign of increasing bipartisan support for the initiative launched by former President Donald Trump.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and his Republican counterpart, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, are among the co-sponsors of the measure introduced Wednesday. A companion bill in the Senate also has bipartisan backing.

The bill would task the State Department with identifying opportunities to expand last year’s Abraham Accords, as well as obstacles. The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC backs the legislation. Trump brokered the accords between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco.

FILE – In this Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, then-US President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan react on the Blue Room Balcony after signing the Abraham Accords during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Democrats at first were cautious about backing the Abraham Accords and were particularly skeptical of some of Trump’s incentives, including the sale of stealth combat jets to Saudi Arabia. One of the co-sponsors of this latest normalization bill, Brad Schneider, a Jewish Democrat from Illinois, for a time led a bid to stop the sale of the F-35s.

US President Joe Biden froze the sale upon assuming office, but earlier this month gave it the go-ahead.

US Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, leaves the Capitol on April 27, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/via JTA)

The bill features language emphasizing that the accords would be a means to an end of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Trump officials and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had all but set aside Israeli-Palestinian peace moves by the time the Abraham Accords were brokered in September, and McCaul recently told AIPAC that he understood that marginalizing the Palestinians to be Trump’s intent. Biden has renewed ties with the Palestinians.

Other leading sponsors of the bill are Republicans Peter Meijer of Michigan and Anne Wagner of Missouri, as well as Sylvia Garcia, a Texas Democrat.

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