Abraham Accords envoy bill vote postponed, but signs of progress on the horizon

The bill is set to be included in an upcoming Senate package, an individual familiar with the legislation said; the administration is also expected to name an Abraham Accords czar

MAZEN MAHDI/AFP via Getty Images

Director of Policy Planning Department at the UAE Foreign Ministry Abdulrahman Ali Alneyadi, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert, Director-general at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alon Ushpiz, Undersecretary for International Affairs at the Bahrain Foreign Ministry Sheikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Director-general of Political Affairs at Morocco's foreign ministry Ambassador Fouad Yazourh, and Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister for Egypt Ministers Office Affairs Mohamed Tharwat hold a joint press conference for the Negev Forum first Steering Committee meeting in the town of Zallaq, south of the Bahraini capital Manama on June 27, 2022.

Tensions between House Republican leadership and conservatives aligned with the Freedom Caucus over the bipartisan debt limit deal upended a scheduled House vote on Monday evening on a bipartisan bill establishing an ambassador-rank special envoy for advancing the Abraham Accords.

House business is expected to resume on Tuesday following talks between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and conservative critics, and a vote on the envoy bill is expected. The bill is likely to receive broad bipartisan support — and there is movement on the initiative in the Senate and the administration as well.

While the bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate, an individual familiar with the legislation told Jewish Insider that Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff had indicated that the initiative would be included in an upcoming package aimed at supporting the Abraham Accords and Negev Forum. 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not respond to a request for comment.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken confirmed last week that the administration is planning to create a new position to advance the administration’s efforts to expand the Abraham Accords — although making the position permanent and ambassador-level would require action from Congress. Axios reported that the administration is planning to appoint former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to the position, an idea that has garnered support from lawmakers.

The individual familiar with the bill told JI that they believe an administration appointment would be in line with the goals of the bill and show that the administration shares lawmakers’ view that a dedicated envoy for the Abraham Accords would be beneficial. They added, however, that an administration appointment alone would not eliminate the need for the legislation.

The individual noted that the bill would protect and make the position permanent by codifying it into law and placing the onus on both the current and subsequent administrations to keep the position filled. Without it, they said, the Biden administration or future presidents could eliminate the position in the future.

The source also noted that the bill would require Senate confirmation, which the bill’s sponsors told JI previously lends the post additional prestige and authority.

Another key difference between the bill and the post outlined by Axios: The bill would establish the position as focused solely on the Abraham Accords, while, according to Axios, the position envisioned by the administration would have other responsibilities.

The source added that Shapiro’s potential selection for an administration position in the near-term would not prevent the administration from nominating him if and when the position is codified.

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