‘Critical step in trying to get Saudi Arabia’: US House Committee passes bill to create Abraham Accords envoy

House Foreign Affairs Committee votes unanimously to create permanent envoy position, aimed at expanding Abraham Accords and strengthening ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

By Andrew Bernard, The Algemeiner

The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill to create a permanent envoy tasked with strengthening and expanding the Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and several Arab countries in 2020.

Introduced by Representatives Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Mike Lawler (R-NY), the bipartisan bill garnered strong support from the committee’s members, two of whom cited the potential for Saudi Arabia to join the accords.

“I think that having a special envoy is a critical step in trying to get Saudi Arabia as part of the Abraham Accords,” said Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL). “There’s no doubt that that would be a critical step for the region. I think the Abraham Accords has shown that shared economic interest is the pathway to not just peace in the region, but also bringing down antisemitism.”

The legislation, which was first introduced in February, would create a Special Envoy for the Abraham Accords with the rank of ambassador who would be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The envoy would “serve as the primary advisor to, and coordinate efforts across, the United States Government relating to expanding and strengthening the Abraham Accords” and “engage in discussions with nation-state officials lacking official diplomatic relations with Israel.”

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The Abraham Accords, which were negotiated by the Trump administration, initially established relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and were later joined by Morocco. Sudan’s steps towards normalization with Israel as part of the accords framework was halted when Sudan’s government was toppled by a military coup in October 2021.

As one of the wealthiest and most populous Arab states and as one of Israel’s former greatest antagonists, Saudi Arabia has long been viewed as the crown jewel of Arab-Israeli normalization by US and Israeli officials.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly made a secret trip to the kingdom in November 2020, and has explicitly cited expanding the accords to include Saudi Arabia as a goal in readouts of his discussions with the Biden Administration.

Saudi Arabia, however, continues to publicly insist that it is committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, in which they offered full normalization between the Arab world and Israel in exchange for Israel withdrawing from Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights and recognizing a Palestinian state.

During the hearing, Representatives also welcomed reports that former US Ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration Daniel Shapiro is being considered by Secretary of State Antony Blinken for the role.

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“I can think of no better person than the one being considered, Dan Shapiro,” said Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). “[He] understands the challenges but also fully embraces and appreciates the opportunities to work at there.”

The creation of the envoy roll comes as current US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides is expected to leave his posting in the coming months and as the Biden administration has attempted to navigate turmoil in the relationships for the US both with Israel and with the Gulf Arab states. In March, Israeli politicians criticized Biden for having “crossed a red line” when Biden said that Israel “cannot continue down this road” of proposed judicial reforms that sparked months of protests.

After passage in the Foreign Affairs Committee, the legislation will now need to be voted on by the full House of Representatives and the Senate before it can be signed by President Biden.