Special envoy push

Torres, Lawler push for a U.S. Abraham Accords ambassador 

New bipartisan legislation would create an ambassador-rank special envoy to strengthen and expand the Abraham Accords

U.S. House of Representatives

Reps. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Mike Lawler (R-NY)

Reps. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Mike Lawler (R-NY) are pushing for the creation of a dedicated ambassador post at the State Department focused on advancing the Abraham Accords.

The two House lawmakers are set to introduce a bill today that would create an ambassador-rank special envoy for the Abraham Accords, who would be tasked with leading and coordinating the State Department’s efforts to strengthen and expand the Arab-Israeli normalization agreements. The ambassador would report directly to the secretary of state, conduct talks with potential Abraham Accords signatories and work with nongovernmental organizations.

“The Abraham Accords have given birth to a new Middle East whose unfolding we’re witnessing in real time,” Torres told Jewish Insider in an interview. “The Abraham Accords cannot be allowed to atrophy from bureaucratic neglect, there should and must be a clear delineation of power within the federal government. The Abraham Accords are so monumental that it merits a special envoy of its own.”

“It’s not about politics, it’s about bureaucracy,” he continued. “Regardless of the administration, without a single point person, there is often a bureaucratic muddle in which many people have power but no one has responsibility… It’s motivated by a concern about the nature of federal bureaucracy.”

Lawler described the proposed special envoy as “an important measure to not only help oversee the Abraham Accords in the region but hopefully help grow it and provide more stability.”

“Having someone who is specifically focused on the Abraham Accords will help ensure the long-term strength of these agreements,” he continued, noting the “robust portfolio” that U.S. ambassadors in the region already handle. “It’s important to really maximize what we’re trying to accomplish here, and I think giving special attention to it is a good thing.”

The legislation directs that the special envoy, who would be subject to Senate confirmation, should have high-level diplomatic experience and be knowledgeable about the Islamic and Jewish worlds, economics, security and human rights. The nominee may also come from within the State Department’s civil service ranks.

Lawler noted that special envoys have been appointed to help oversee other international agreements in the past, pointing specifically to the special envoy for Northern Ireland, who helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement. That position, which has been in existence since 1995, is not subject to Senate confirmation.

Lawler said that making the position ambassador-rank and Senate-confirmed gives it more “credence and credibility” and puts “more weight behind the work that they’re doing.” 

Torres mentioned specifically that the envoy could work on bringing the “holy grail” — Saudi Arabia — into the normalization agreements, in addition to other countries like Indonesia. He also highlighted that the Abraham Accords serve as an important counterweight in the Middle East to China’s rising global power.

Lawler, a new member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he plans to work with Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), the committee’s chair, to ensure that the legislation can be passed.

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