Trump Incentives for Signing Peace Accords With Israel May Be at Threat

WASHINGTON – For Sudan, agreeing to normalize relations with Israel was the price paid for being removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A similar diplomatic agreement with Israel sealed Morocco’s demand for the United States to recognize its sovereignty over Western Sahara.

UAE officials looking to buy clandestine F-35 fighter jets from the US first had to sign up to the Abraham Accord, which was the result of President Trump’s campaign to promote stability between Israel and alienated or even hostile Muslim states .

Either way, the incentives the Trump administration dangled in exchange for the easing could fail – either rejected by Congress or reversed by the administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Not only does this jeopardize the series of regional rapprochement agreements, but it also exacerbates a worldview that the United States cannot rely on to halt the end of diplomatic deals.

The Abraham Accords, Trump’s most important foreign policy achievement, either re-established or re-established Israel’s economic and political ties with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco. Officials familiar with the government’s efforts said Oman and Tunisia could be the next states to join, and warming could extend to countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, even after Mr Trump is in January Resigned from office.

Formally reducing tensions between Israel and its regional neighbors is, of course, a success that former Republican and Democratic presidents have long sought to promote.

“All diplomacy is a transaction, but these transactions mix things up that shouldn’t have been mixed up,” said Robert Malley, president and chief executive officer of the International Crisis Group, which is close to Antony Blinken, said Mr. Biden’s election as secretary of state.

Mr Malley predicted that the incoming Biden administration would seek to backtrack or dilute portions of normalization agreements that contradict international norms, such as the case of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, or otherwise seek to dilute longstanding United States policies such as the F. – 35 sales to the Emirates.

Congress has also sounded the alarm.

The Senate narrowly accepted the Emirates’ purchase of stealth jets, drones and other precision weapons last week, signaling concerns about expanded arms deals for the Persian Gulf. This could be reversed if the Democrats take control of the chamber after next month’s runoff elections in Georgia. Separately, the move is being reviewed by the Biden administration to ensure the $ 23 billion sale to the UAE does not detract from Israel’s military lead in the region.

A day after the Senate vote, Republican Armed Forces Committee chairman, Oklahoma Senator James M. Inhofe, said it was “shocking and disappointing” that the Trump administration had decided to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara and predicted it would be reversed. The United Nations, the European Union and the African Union consider Western Sahara to be a disputed area.

“I am sad that the rights of the people in Western Sahara have been traded away,” Inhofe said in a statement. “The president was badly advised by his team. He could have made this deal without trading the rights of a voiceless people. “

Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine el-Othmani said on Tuesday that his government “does not want an exchange”.

“We are not negotiating with the Sahara,” said Othmani in an interview with Al Jazeera. “But victory in this battle required company.”

Nowhere has the diplomatic agreement proved more delicate than in Sudan.

The State Department had already decided to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in order to compensate Khartoum in return for the victims of the 1998 bombings against American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. As part of these negotiations, the Sudanese interim government had called for the dismissal of all other terrorism claims it had faced as a result of attacks in the 27 years it was on the list.

The Foreign Ministry agreed and countered last summer with a condition of its own: Sudan is beginning to thaw half a century of hostilities with Israel.

However, only Congress can grant Sudan the legal peace it is striving for. For the past few months, lawmakers have been bogged down as it would deny families of the 9/11 victims’ families to challenge their days in court.

“We always wanted all terrorists to be held accountable for what they did on September 11,” said Kristen Breitweiser, an attorney whose husband was killed in the attacks on New York, in a statement released last week during angry negotiations in the Congress was published.

Sudan insists that it is not liable for the 9/11 attacks as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden left his sanctuary in the country five years before they were carried out. But The Congressional compromise, which officials and others close to the negotiation say have been worked out, allows the 9/11 lawsuits to continue, potentially holding Sudan liable for billions in compensation for victims.

Representatives from the Sudanese embassy in Washington declined to comment, but previously said the country could potentially withdraw from the peace accords with Israel if it does not receive immunity from terrorism lawsuits. As the Trump administration tries to keep the deal from falling apart, an official confirmed a Bloomberg report that the United States had offered Sudan a $ 1 billion loan to meet its arrears and annual development aid of up to $ 1.5 billion. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to visit Sudan, Israel and the Emirates in a high-level delegation in the region next month.

Bahrain appears to be a single exception among countries incentivized under normalization agreements with Israel, though the Foreign Ministry this week labeled Iran-affiliated Saraya al-Mukhtar a terrorist organization, in part because of its aim of overthrowing the tiny Sunni monarchy.

It has also raised concerns among current and former government officials and conflict analysts that the United States will identify Houthi rebels in Yemen as a foreign terrorist organization in an attempt to convince Saudi Arabia to sign the agreements with Israel.

Officials close to the decision said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was inclined to use the designation in order to cut off Iranian support for the Houthis, who have taken control of most of Yemen, overthrowing its government and neighboring Saudi -Arabia on their five year border have attacked war. It could also ban the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen’s major ports, most of which are controlled by the Houthis, and exacerbate famine in one of the world’s poorest countries.

It is doubtful, however, that the very name terrorism would convince Saudi Arabia – the most powerful monarchy in the Middle East – to normalize relations with Israel. This thaw could last for years, if it happens at all, and until then it could possibly be driven more by an increasing number of young adults in the kingdom who are more concerned with jobs and economic stability at home than a generation-old conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations, said a secret trip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made to Saudi Arabia last month to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was a bold signal of detente.

“These Arab countries want to be friends with Israel,” said Ms. Haley on Wednesday at the Israel-based DiploTech Global Summit.

Even if they disapprove of Mr. Trump’s transactional diplomacy, Mr. Biden and Mr. Blinken will be cautious about withdrawing from Israel, which is the U.S.’s strongest ally in the Middle East and has significant political influence on American evangelicals and Jewish voters.

“I think President-elect Biden will try to keep the momentum going because it is beneficial to the US and US allies and I think this will be the right thing,” said Danny Danon, who retired this year as Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

Alan Rappeport reported from Washington and Aida Alami from Rabat, Morocco.

Comments are closed.