Yair Lapid in Washington: How Biden deals with Trump’s Middle East legacy

Dhe Biden administration is continuing much of what was started in Donald Trump’s presidency – some in silence or even ashamed of it. The Abraham Accords to normalize Israel’s relations with several Arab states are now even being celebrated. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken wanted to receive his counterparts from Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yair Lapid and Abdullah Bin Zayed al Nahyan, to acknowledge the signing of the treaties a good year ago. The Trump administration brokered the agreement between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. Morocco and Sudan joined later.

Majid Sattar

Political correspondent for North America based in Washington.

However, senior representatives of the State Department made it clear on Tuesday that the agreement was not a substitute for the two-state solution. Hopes were expressed that it could help make progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump had broken with previous American Middle East policy and urged the Gulf States to ignore Palestinian resistance to the agreement.

“New paradigm” in the region?

Until then, the normalization of relations with Israel had been made dependent on a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership complained that it had been betrayed by the Arab brother states. The American diplomats did not make any concrete suggestions as to how the agreement could help to come closer to a two-state solution. The new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett rejects a Palestinian state.

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There is a high level of support for the Abrahamic Accords in Israel. According to a recent poll, 61 percent of Israelis believe the normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain have met their expectations, Maariv newspaper reported. On Monday, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the former president’s son-in-law and daughter, paid a brief visit to Israel to help set up an Abrahamic Accord advocacy group of Knesset MPs. Kushner, who is considered to be the architect of the agreements, said at the event in Jerusalem that they had created a “new paradigm” in the region. He recently co-founded an organization, the Abraham Accords Institute for Peace, which aims to help deepen relations between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

Exchange on the Iran issue

Lapid met with Vice President Kamala Harris and Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to President Joe Biden, on Tuesday. The White House later announced that it had also discussed the respective perspectives on the threat from Iran. Sullivan had reiterated Biden’s commitment to ensure that Tehran never comes into possession of nuclear weapons. Both sides had agreed to closely exchange views on the Iran issue. Before meeting Harris, Lapid had said that the Iranian nuclear program was the focus of his visit to Washington. Speaking to Sullivan, Lapid is said to have emphasized the need for a Plan B should Washington’s efforts to revitalize the international agreement with Iran fail.

Trump had unilaterally terminated the agreement in 2018, whereupon Iran restarted its uranium enrichment and restricted international inspections of its nuclear facilities. Shortly after Biden took office, the other contracting states began their efforts to persuade both sides to return to the agreement. During Bennett’s visit in August, Biden said that he would initially rely on diplomacy in dealing with Iran. If this fails, he is ready to turn to “other options”.

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