One Year Later

Ambassadors to mark first anniversary of Abraham Accords

Israeli, Emirati, Bahraini ambassadors set to speak at Sept. 14 panel

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Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump, and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony at the White House on Sept. 15, 2020.

A year after the signing of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House, the ambassadors from the three signatory nations are slated to appear together next week in Washington, D.C., at an anniversary celebration. 

The event, scheduled for next Tuesday, was organized by the Abraham Accords Peace Institute, a nonpartisan organization created earlier this year to increase trade and tourism between Israel and the Middle Eastern and North African countries with which it normalized ties last year. AAPI’s executive director, Robert Greenway, who served as senior director for the Middle East at the National Security Council under former President Donald Trump, will moderate a panel with the Israeli, Bahrain and Emirati ambassadors, following an address by Jared Kushner, the former senior advisor to the president who created the Institute and provided its initial funding.

There are two goals for the event, which will take place at Georgetown’s Four Seasons Hotel: “The first is to discuss the progress made in the Accords,” Greenway told Jewish Insider. “Number two is to discuss the potential — what is really possible going forward,” including Greenway’s hope that additional countries will enter into their own agreements with the Jewish state. 

The signing of the Abraham Accords on September 15, 2020, led to a normalization of ties between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and each country’s ambassador will speak at next week’s event. Ambassadors from Egypt and Jordan, which established ties with Israel in 1978 and 1994 respectively, will also attend the event. Sudan and Morocco, which also established or strengthened ties with Israel last year, also plan to send representatives; Sudan’s ambassador will attend, as will Morocco’s deputy chief of mission.

Greenway expects around 100 people to attend the event, including a number of senior State Department officials. He declined to offer specifics about those officials, and a State Department spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry from Jewish Insider

Most members of Congress will not attend the celebrations. The House of Representatives is not in session next week, and Secretary of State Tony Blinken will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the same time as the event to testify about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Israeli MKs Ruth Wasserman Lande and Ofir Akunis, who lead an Abraham Accords group in the Knesset, are expected to attend. 

The Institute had to “thread the needle of all of the Jewish High Holidays in the month of September, which is no small feat,” Greenway acknowledged. 

The former president and congressional Republicans have touted the Abraham Accords as a signature achievement of the Trump administration. Members of President Joe Biden’s administration have committed to furthering the normalization agreements by expanding to other countries, with Oman and Saudi Arabia widely viewed as countries to target. Representatives of both countries were invited, said Greenway, but he declined to specify who was invited and whether any will attend. 

“We will continue to urge more countries to normalize relations with Israel — and will look for other opportunities to expand cooperation among countries in the region. As a result, I expect Israel’s group of friends to grow even wider in the year ahead,” Blinken said in April.  

Some conservatives have accused Biden of moving too slowly on the issue, but Greenway said he views the administration as a partner.

“I think they appreciate the fact that we’re working to continue the work to expand economic and cultural ties,” Greenway said. “In this case, we provide a venue, so instead of the administration having to plan for an event like this, it’s easier for them to attend and participate and speak at an event being hosted elsewhere.” 

He also pledged to keep politics out of the organization’s mission, noting that most of his time in public service was in apolitical roles, having served in active duty and then in intelligence.

“My goal is to keep the Institute nonpartisan, to make sure politics don’t emerge [and] to be as helpful as we can to support the administration,” Greenway added. “They’ve been vocal about support for the Accords.” 

Tuesday’s event will also amount to a launch party for the AAPI, which was created in May . Greenway noted that the group’s website, which is not yet active, will become accessible before the event, and that the group will host two other virtual events this month. 

The Institute’s goals are threefold, Greenway explained: to work on the bilateral relations between Israel and the Muslim countries that signed the Accords; to work on multilateral ties between all of the signatories; and to expand the Accords to additional countries. 

“There’s also some areas that, in all frankness, still need work,” said Greenway. In the last year, for instance, Israel and the UAE have greatly expanded business and cultural ties. “But we also need to make sure that Sudan, as well as Kosovo, Bahrain and Morocco — all the other countries in the Accords — are equally advancing,” said Greenway. (Kosovo and Israel formally established ties in February 2021.)

The Institute also hopes to build business and cultural ties between Israel and countries that have not yet joined the Accords as a means of paving the way to normalization.

“I hope we can expand Israel’s cultural and economic ties with other countries that don’t currently have relations or economic ties, and also the cultural exchange,” Greenway noted. “I think that will enable us to get to full normalization.”

This article was updated at 7:05 a.m. on 9/13/2021.