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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Historic House Vote Expels Rep. George Santos Amidst Scandal
In a turn of events, the House of Representatives made history on Friday with a vote to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), marking the first such expulsion in over two decades. A moment fraught with gravity unfolded as Speaker Mike Johnson wielded his gavel to formalize Santos’ removal, setting a precedent in congressional annals.
Santos, indicted on 23 counts related to wire fraud, identity theft, and other charges, has not faced conviction but stands accused of misusing campaign funds for opulent purchases. The bipartisan vote, tallying 311 to 114, signaled robust support for expulsion, with a marginally higher number of Republicans opting to retain Santos.
Questions loomed as Speaker Johnson left the chamber, his silence leaving the fate of the ongoing government spending battle uncertain. According to reports from Fox News, Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer emphasized the non-partisan nature of the decision, asserting that members concluded Santos had tarnished the House’s reputation and was unfit for representation.
Within the GOP, conflicting opinions emerged, with Rep. Darrell Issa arguing against expulsion, citing the presumption of innocence. The tight-lipped stance of the House Ethics Committee played a pivotal role in the deliberations.
Conversely, members of the New York Republican delegation, led by Rep. Marc Molinaro, asserted Santos’ commission of crimes, justifying expulsion based on a comprehensive investigation.
Santos himself predicted the outcome in an exclusive morning interview on “FOX & Friends.” This vote not only underlines the House’s rare use of expulsion powers but also sets a critical precedent in handling members facing severe legal challenges.
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