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US lawmakers launch bipartisan caucus to promote Abraham Accords

Members from House and Senate say they will work to ensure US advancement of normalization agreements between Israel, Arab states occurs beyond executive level

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyanin (right), speaks at a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyanin (right), speaks at a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

A bipartisan group of United States lawmakers from the House and Senate launched the Abraham Accords Congressional Caucus on Monday, seeking to expand the American legislative branch’s role in the promotion of the normalization agreements Israel has signed with Arab neighbors.

The caucus will be co-chaired by Republicans Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and James Lankford (R-OK) in the Senate and Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), David Trone (D-MD), Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) in the House.

In various statements announcing the caucus’s establishment, none of the members specified how exactly they plan to promote the Abraham Accords, though Rosen said the group would provide “bipartisan leadership to strengthen existing partnerships and widen the circle of peace to new countries.”

Some of the caucus co-chairs have already sponsored the Israel Relations Normalization Act, which was introduced last year before stalling due to congressional squabbling. That legislation directs the State Department to report to Congress on steps being taken to promote the Abraham Accords, which were signed by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco last year.

Schneider told The Times of Israel that the caucus “will further Congress’ work toward ensuring a secure, Jewish and democratic Israel living side by side with a Palestinian state

Lankford told Jewish Insider, which first reported the caucus’s launching, that the delegation would seek to keep the executive branch focused on adding more countries to the accords brokered under the Trump administration.

Then-Senate candidate Jacky Rosen introduces former Vice President Joe Biden as he campaigns for Nevada Democratic candidates during a rally in Las Vegas, on October 20, 2018. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“I don’t want this getting lost in the State Department,” Lankford told Jewish Insider. “So this is a way that we can actually reach out to State and continue to push that, and continue to be able to encourage those countries… and we have relationships with them as well.”

US President Joe Biden is supportive of the agreements and has taken steps to develop the new ties Israel has forged with some of its Arab neighbors, but expanding the Abraham Accords will be a taller task, as the current White House is not fond of some of the steps taken by former US president Donald Trump to coax countries into signing peace deals with Israel.

While Biden officials had once spoken of getting the Israel-Sudan normalization talks “over the finish line,” that agreement was put on the back-burner following a coup staged by the military last October.

In the meantime, the Biden administration appears more focused in strengthening existing agreements, hosting joint meetings with Israeli and Emirati officials. However, there have been reports of members of the administration raising Israel normalization with Saudi and Indonesian counterparts, and the Israeli and Saudi foreign ministers were among a handful of top diplomats that joined a conference call on the Omicron COVID-19 variant hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month.

The Monday announcement was lauded by MKs Ruth Wasserman Lande (Blue and White) and Ofir Akunis (Likud), who chair the Knesset version of the caucus, which launched last October.

“I deeply cherish the support from the United States and offer my congratulations on the establishment of a sister-caucus in America, with whom we can advance further frameworks for regional cooperation,” said Wasserman Lande in a statement.

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