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February 28, 2023 3:37 pm

New York Lawmakers Call for Full-Time Abraham Accords Ambassador


avatar by Andrew Bernard

Representative Ritchie Torres speaks during the House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., September 30, 2021. Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Mike Lawler (R-NY) on Tuesday introduced bipartisan legislation to create a Special Envoy for the Abraham Accords, the 2020 agreement that normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states.

“The Abraham Accords have given birth to a new Middle East, which is unfolding in real time,” said Rep. Torres in a joint statement announcing the measure. “However, these breakthrough diplomatic agreements cannot be allowed to wither away due to bureaucratic neglect or negligence. Regardless of the administration, too often we see progress muddled by bureaucracy in which many people have power but there is no actual responsibility. There must be a clear delineation of power coming from within the federal government such as an ambassador-level special envoy position because the Abraham Accords are so monumental.”

According to the bill, the Special Envoy will “serve as the primary advisor to, and coordinate efforts across, the United States Government relating to expanding and strengthening the Abraham Accords” and “engage in discussions with nation-state officials lacking official diplomatic relations with Israel regarding the Abraham Accords.”

The Abraham Accords initially established relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and were later joined by Morocco. Sudan’s steps towards normalization with Israel as part of the accords framework was halted when Sudan’s government was toppled by a military coup in October 2021.

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Rep. Lawler said that the accords have already “dramatically” improved relations between Israel and the Arab states.

“There is still room for improvement, though, and I truly believe that establishing a new special envoy position in the Department of State that is focused on advancing the Abraham Accords will lead to a safer and more prosperous future for Israel and all nations in the Middle East,” he said in the announcement. “I am hopeful that the Biden administration, House Republicans, and Senate Democrats will all work together to make this critical and necessary envoy a reality.”

The legislation was also endorsed by the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

“We applaud Reps. Torres and Lawler for spearheading an initiative to ensure these officials have the necessary tools to continue their important work,” said AJC’s Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer Jason Isaacson. “These normalization agreements — combined with the creation of regional bodies and incremental openings from other Arab League states — are already yielding tangible benefits and promise to lead to new opportunities and a widening of the circle of peace.”

Expanding the Abraham Accords to new countries and bolstering the existing agreements is a recurrent feature of meetings between US and Israeli officials.

Speaking at the Hartog National Security Conference on Feb. 20, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that bringing Saudi Arabia into the accords would be a “quantum leap” for peace in the region.

“I think we can have a quantum leap if the Saudi leadership decides that it wants to be formally part of this. Informally, they’re part of this,” he said.

Should Torres and Lawler’s legislation be signed into law, the Special Envoy would need to be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

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