peace prospects

Dermer: I hope Biden will expand on the Abraham Accords

'At a time when the two parties can’t agree on anything, hopefully they can agree on this, which is peace'

State Department photo by Michael Gross

Ron Dermer in May 2019 (Michael Gross/State Department)

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer expressed hope on Monday that President-elect Joe Biden would build upon the recently signed normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and strengthen bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship when he assumes office next year. 

“I was very heartened that the president-elect, Joe Biden, one of the things that he agreed with President [Donald] Trump on was the Abraham Accords. He actually put out a statement saying he’d like to build on that and expand it,” Dermer said during a panel discussion on Monday morning with UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba and Bahraini Ambassador to the U.S. Abdulla R. Al Khalifa hosted by the Economic Club and moderated by David Rubenstein. “I think that is a very good thing.” 

“At a time when the two parties can’t agree on anything, hopefully they can agree on this, which is peace — and to expand it, to deepen the peace we already have with Egypt and Jordan, and then to have other countries join,” Dermer added. 

Asked if these agreements would have come about without Trump, Dermer demurred. “I don’t know, you’d have to leave that to historians,” he said. But the Israeli ambassador, whose term is set to expire in January, explained that “the fact that he confronted Iran, helped. The fact that he embraced allies in the region, helped. That fact that he didn’t put the Palestinian issue front and center, helped.” 

Dermer maintained that Israel agreed to suspend annexation of portions of the West Bank to clear the path towards warmed relations with Arab nations. “It doesn’t mean permanent, it doesn’t mean tomorrow,” he said, “it means somewhere in between those two positions.” 

Dermer said that the upcoming U.S. sale of F-35 jets to the UAE was not part of the normalization deal, but that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz — “who don’t agree on a lot of things within Israel” — agreed that the sale “would not violate the U.S. commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, and we feel very confident about that.” 

During the conversation, Al Otaiba said he would be happy to visit Israel, and that the UAE hopes to host Netanyahu in Abu Dhabi “as soon as [the coronavirus] is under control.”

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