US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on Friday that the Biden administration would actively work to support and expand the growing diplomatic ties between Israel and Arab nations.
Speaking at a Zoom event to mark the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on the White House lawn, Blinken pledged that “this administration will continue to build on the successful efforts of the last administration to keep normalization marching forward.”
Blinken laid out three main lines of effort to support the agreements — fostering Israel’s ties with the UAE and Bahrain as well as Morocco, Sudan and Kosovo; deepening Israel’s existing relationships with Egypt and Jordan; and encouraging more countries to join the Abraham Accords.
Sudan and Morocco joined the Abraham Accords in the months after they were signed, while Kosovo agreed to recognize Israel as part of a separate US-brokered agreement involving Serbia.
“We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy,” said Blinken, “because it’s in the interest of countries across the region and around the world for Israel to be treated like any other country.”
Notably, Blinken used the term “Abraham Accords,” something Biden administration officials have tended to avoid when discussing the agreements.
Blinken was joined by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, former UAE foreign minister Anwar Gargash and Bahrain’s US envoy Abdullah Al Khalifa.
Turning to the Palestinians, Blinken said, “We all must build on these relationships and growing normalization to make tangible improvements in the lives of Palestinians.”
He urged “progress toward the long-standing goal of advancing a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” but did not call for immediate negotiations toward a two-state solution.
“Palestinians and Israelis deserve equal measures of freedom, security and opportunity and dignity,” he added.
America’s top diplomat lauded private sector collaboration between the countries on COVID-19, desalinization and stem-cell therapies.
He also said the accords would help in “reducing regional tension, combatting terrorism, and mitigating the impact of the climate crisis.”
The virtual event, hosted by Blinken, was called “One Year Anniversary of the Abraham Accords: Normalization Agreements in Action.”
Lapid opened his English-language remarks by noting that it was the 43rd anniversary of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, the first time the Jewish State was recognized by an Arab country.
“This Abraham Accords club is open for new members as well,” said Lapid.
Lapid noted he will visit Bahrain at end of the month to open Israel’s embassy in Manama.
The foreign minister also emphasized his “economy for security” initiative for the Gaza Strip and invited Israel’s regional partners to join the effort, which he predicted would boost the Palestinian economy and stabilize the region.
Unlike events earlier this week hosted by the Israeli Mission to the UN and former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, representatives from Egypt and Jordan were not invited, their embassies confirmed.
While they have spoken out against the accords and would likely have declined an invitation to attend Friday’s event, an official in the Palestinian Authority foreign ministry confirmed that Ramallah was not invited.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita lauded the “new regional order,” echoing Lapid’s “circle of life” vision for the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean.
“Yes, the Abraham Accords are the result of goodwill, but more than anything, we see action,” said Bourita.
He pointed at the five working groups between Israel and Morocco, the resumption of direct flights, and the signing of over 20 agreements between the two countries.
Bourita also spoke about Palestinian-Israeli relations, saying that “relaunching the peace process is fundamental.”
“Morocco believes that there is no other alternative to the two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state with the borders of June 1967.”
He called for Jerusalem “to be preserved as a common heritage for humanity, as a symbol of peaceful coexistence of the followers of the three monotheistic religions.”
Bourita also made a point to knock those who have criticized his government’s rapprochement with Israel, including Algeria, which subsequently cut ties with Rabat.
UAE diplomat Anwar Gargash wished Israelis and Jews a happy new year at the outset of his remarks.
“I hope that this is a year we can consolidate our relationship,” he said.
Gargash said the UAE is encouraged by the ties and opportunities in their new relationship with Israel.
“This is a positive counter-narrative for a region that needs positive counter-narratives,” he said.
Gargash also said that the Abraham Accords would help efforts toward “the ultimate goal of a two-state solution.”
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, on his way to New York for the UN General Assembly, offered a pre-recorded statement.
“The past year has clearly shown that despite challenges, change is possible for our region,” he said.
Separately Friday, President Isaac Herzog phoned former US president Jimmy Carter telling him he was thinking of him on the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords as well as the 48-year anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.
Herzog thanked Carter for brokering the first Arab-Israeli peace deal, the 1978 Camp David Accords between the late prime minister Menachem Begin and the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.
“President Herzog praised this ground-breaking diplomatic achievement for saving countless lives in the Middle East and ultimately paving the way for other peace agreements, all the way to the Abraham Accords last year,” his office said.
“You did something really holy: this was the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab state, which led all the way to the agreements we had last year with the Gulf states,” Herzog told Carter.