How to Make Israel’s Improving Relations with the Arab World Last

January 11, 2021 | Michael Koplow
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In brokering the Abraham Accords—which were joined by Sudan on Wednesday—as well as the normalization agreement between Israel and Morocco, the U.S. offered various rewards to the Arab parties. The presence of such inducements does not make these dramatic diplomatic breakthroughs less cause for celebration. But it does make them inherently brittle, writes Michael Koplow, and it is thus important for both Jerusalem and Washington to seek ways to strengthen them:

Agreements to recognize Israel that are contingent upon unrelated policy moves from a third actor are inherently fleeting and subject to being rolled back. . . . Given the whiplash in foreign policy that took place when Donald Trump replaced President Barack Obama and that is now expected to happen again with the shift to President Biden, American commitments in particular are in doubt in ways that were previously unthinkable. Any normalization agreements that depend on continuity in U.S. foreign policy in order to guarantee them may be fleeting.

Open questions remain about how normalization with the UAE might be impacted if the arms package gets delayed or altered in the future, or how normalization with Morocco will proceed if a future administration withdraws recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. Relations that are built on self-interest can be lasting, but only if that interest is squarely in the relationship itself rather than on tangential issues.

The Biden administration should pursue the continuation of this process. Normalization between Israel and its former foes not only benefits Israel but benefits American interests and regional stability as well, and puts to rest an ugly boycott that delegitimizes Israel’s fundamental right to self-determined sovereignty. The challenge for Joe Biden and his team will be to help broker agreements between Israel and its regional neighbors that rest on their own strength.

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