While President Biden signed The Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2022 last month, the administration’s counter-productive actions in the Middle East, for example its pursuing of an Iran nuclear deal, not re-listing (after de-listing) the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, pursuing a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem, meddling in Israeli-Palestinian property disputes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, pursuing a two-state solution, and coupling the Abraham Accords with a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict threaten to upend the Abraham Accords initiated by the Trump administration. Nonetheless, despite the administration’s negative efforts, March saw considerable growth in the Accords. A recent report by the Abraham Accords Peace Institute highlights some of those developments, discussed below.
In diplomacy, in late March, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the foreign ministers of Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco convened in southern Israel for the Negev Summit. A week before that, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi hosted a trilateral summit with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, where they discussed Iran and cooperation on defense and energy. Israel also had its first diplomatic visit to Indonesia in 30 years, when Israeli Knesset members visited Bali’s International Parliamentary Union. [As stated previously, the Trump administration was on the verge of expanding the Abraham Accords to Indonesiabut were prevented from doing so once the administration’s term expired.] Singapore stated its intentions to open an embassy in Tel Aviv, following over 50 years of diplomatic relations with Israel. Israel also appointed its consul in Morocco.
Trade and Innovation
In trade and innovation, April began with the signing of a free trade agreement between Israel and the UAE, including customs, e-commerce, government procurement, and intellectual property rights. But there were many developments in trade and innovation in the month of March as well.
For example, Morocco hosted its first Israeli business delegation, featuring the Israel Manufacturers Association and the Israel Export Institute. Tel Aviv hosted the inaugural Morocco-Israel Business Forum.
The joint Israeli-Emirati venture capital fund Synaptech Capital launched, and it will focus on cyber-security, fintech, and smart city technologies, including others. Israeli VC firm OurCrowd also stated that it will open an AI R&D center in Abu Dhabi by June. The Dubai Chamber of Commerce hosted the “Dubai-Israel: Future Horizons Mission” forum featuring 200 meetings between Israeli and Emirati companies, while Israeli business leaders visited the Abu Dhabi Global Market.
And in energy, Israel Electric Corp and UAE’s Energroup agreed to join forces on blue and green hydrogen generation in Israel.
In aviation, Morocco’s National Tourist Office and Israir established Tel Aviv to Marrakech flights twice a week, Royal Air Moroc began Tel Aviv-Casablanca direct flights and Royal Air Moroc and El Al Airlines established a codeshare agreement. Emirates Airlines also stated that it would begin its Dubai-Tel Aviv flights on June 23. These had been delayed due to COVID. Israir will also begin Tel Aviv-Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt flights in April. Morocco and the Israel Aerospace Industries also signed an MOU in the field of aeronautics, including cooperation on 3D printing, cabin interiors, engine parts, and an engineering center.
In defense, senior Israeli and Moroccan defense officials signed an MOU for enhanced military cooperation. The IDF’s chief of staff travelled to Bahrain to meet with top military brass in his first official visit. Kosovo’s defense minister also visited Israel to meet with Israel’s intelligence minister and to attend a cyber, defense and homeland security exhibition.
Lots of progress was made in the field of cultural exchange this month as well. In Morocco, Casablanca and Rabat hosted concerts with Muslim-Jewish Andalusian music that included Israeli artists. The Moroccan city of Tangiers hosted the “Jewish Days of Tangiers” event which featured a tour of Jewish historical sites in the city and a concert featuring Jewish Andalusian music. Cultural ministers from Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco agreed to cooperate on cultural initiatives. Dubai hosted the first Trilateral Religious Coexistence Working Group which included Israel, the UAE and the United States. A library at the University of Haifa signed an academic cooperation agreement with the UAE’s National Library and Archives. This followed a visit of a delegation from the UAE’s National Archives to the National Library of Israel earlier that month.
In tourism, Azerbaijan and Israel signed a tourism agreement, and Azerbaijan opened a tourism office in Israel. Morocco and Israel held a joint webinar called the Morocco Israel Investment Tourism Summit. Israel and the UAE also signed an MOU to recognize the driver’s licenses of each other’s country.
While the Abraham Accords continued to grow considerably last month, they continue to be at considerable risk from a host of Biden administration policies. By continuing to appease Iran and the Palestinians, the Biden administration risks estranging Israel and aligned Arab states from the United States, and from each other. Only by standing firm against Iran and Palestinian nationalism can the Biden administration truly strengthen the Abraham Accords.
You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic
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Shanghai: China’s Potemkin Village
Following a recent outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has imposed a month-long draconian lockdown on the residents of Shanghai. The CCP has used the outbreak to persecute its own citizens, including through forced evictions and quarantines, and placing alarms on doors to prevent COVID-19 people from leaving their homes. The harsh measures have resulted in food and healthcare shortages and separation of families.
But of course, we wouldn’t know that by reading the CCP-run press readily available in the United States. Instead of presenting the facts, the CCP engages in a comprehensive propaganda campaign that props up Shanghai as a Chinese Potemkin village. The CCP media asserts that China’s actions in Shanghai are benevolent and wise, while Western criticism is a product of malice. Chinese state-run media also insists that the Shanghai lockdown promotes economic stability in China and the world.
Claim 1: China Has the Best Policy for Combating COVID-19
The CCP media portray the Shanghai lockdown as the best and ideal policy. As cited by a XinhuaNet editorial, “China’s dynamic zero-COVID approach” is “the best option to save lives,” according to a “Rwandan researcher and publisher,” “…a miracle for us to learn,” according to a Kenyan scholar, and “a very ideal response,” according to Ethiopia’s National COVID-19 Response Task Force Coordinator. According to CCP media, Chinese citizens have greeted the Shanghai lockdown warmly, even with “[a] mixed sense of intensity, unity and hopefulness,” according to China Daily.
Claim 2: The West Hypocritically Defames China
The CCP press also accuses the West of lying about the Shanghai lockdown, and using COVID policies for nefarious ends. According to XinhuaNet, “Shanghai…has never imposed what Western media described as a ‘lockdown.’” Other CCP editorials actually accuse the West of malice. One Global Times editorial claims that the lockdown “has been deliberately exaggerated by the West.” Another Global Times editorial asserts that the Western approach of “coexisting with the virus” amounts to a way “…to drive out a large number of the vulnerable people with low immunity,” and a form of “cruel social Darwinism.”
Claim 3: China’s COVID Policies Result in an Economic Windfall to China and the World
The CCP also portrays the lockdown as necessary to achieve great economic growth in China and beyond. One Global Times editorial, while conceding that the lockdown amounted to a “sealing-off,” it is “a temporary measure to better resume work and production and to make the economy and society function more effectively. Its effectiveness has been proven.” According to another Global Times editorial, China’s policy is “widely considered to be the best strategy…to both contain the epidemic and ensure stable economic development.”
In an Orwellian fashion, Chinese press claims that China is solving, not causing, the world’s economic problems. According to XinhuaNet, “China has played a decisive role in stabilizing the global economy and resuming the supply chain disrupted by COVID-19.” Citing a Bloomberg article, the same XinhuaNet editorial claims that China “has prevented a huge number of deaths at home and ensured that everything from iPhones and Teslas to fertilizer and car parts continues to flow to the rest of the world.” Chinese citizens, of course, are collateral damage: Ji Qiwei, vice-general manager of SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle, stated that “The domestic market may be impacted a little by the COVID-19 outbreak this year, but our export market will continue to see strong growth,” according to China Daily.
While the world continues to suffer economic and human damage as a result of COVID-19, China continues to revise history regarding its role. Through its propaganda in its English publications of Xinhua, China Daily, and Global Times, China seeks to portray itself as a benevolent force in the fight against the virus.
You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic
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