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Does Biden hate the Abraham Accords?

How will Trump’s foreign policy be remembered? Badly, it is safe to see. In just four years, Trump ripped the US out of the Paris, provoked an unnecessary trade war with China, and made the eventuality of a nuclear-armed Iran almost inevitable. Other inglorious episodes include his cozying up to Putin, his abandonment of the Kurds in Syria, and his bizarre political affair with Kim Jong-un.

In an ocean of gaffes, missteps, and mistakes, only one event stands out as something that could be called a victory, so it is little wonder that Trump advocates are so keen for us to recognise it.

Despite the Abraham Accords’ disengenous branding as a peace deal (none of its Arab signatories have ever been at war with Israel and a couple have had under-the-table security relationships with the Jewish state for some time) the accords are more akin to a business arrangement. Their signing has delivered opportunities in regional commerce, tourism, and study-abroad programmes. A landmark peace deal, it was not. But as a business initiative that bodes well for regional integration in the future, it has been a success.

The charge that US conservatives levy against President Biden is of sweeping this successful achievement under the carpet out of sheer spite for his predecessor. They claim that, unwilling to give Trump any credit for his disruptive approach to diplomacy, Biden has is now threatening regional stability in ignoring the deal just to undermine Trump’s legacy.

Although Biden’s opposition to the deal has been exaggerated just as much as the deal’s relevance itself, there is some truth to this claim. The election that put Biden in office was the bitterest in living memory and Biden’s antipathy for Trump lies deep. And the Abraham Accords, with their hyperbolic branding, are inescapably Trumpian – as with skyscrapers, Donald Trump has managed to slap his name on a deal he neither built nor owns. Trump’s name is inextricably linked to the deal and the real estate mogul naturally takes a commission on any lip service Biden pays to the deal.

In fairness to Biden, he was never in favour of promoting normalisation deals between Israel and the Arab world unconnected to the Palestinian issue. And he wasn’t alone: Few experienced policy makers in Washington agreed with Trump’s approach of abandoning America’s nominal role as mediator by giving full-throated support to the Netanyahu administration. Fewer still were impressed by the Trump administration offering F-35s to the UAE, formally recognising Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara, or blackmailing Sudan to sign the accords or remain on Washington’s terror-sponsors blacklist.

But, of course, Biden could only ignore the accords for so long. He held the first trilateral Abraham Accords meeting of his presidency just under a month ago, where he met the foreign ministers of Israel and the UAE and pledged to expand the accords. Since then, unable to accuse Biden of ignoring the accords, his conservative opponents have taken to vilifying him for failing to expand the accords to other Arab states. This is a particularly unfair accusation: the UAE was low-hanging fruit for a normalisation deal, while the Trump administration bribed and cajoled Sudan and Morocco into signing. Saudi Arabia will be a much tougher prize, as will Arab countries like Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan, that fought wars against Israel in living memory.

The biggest opposition to the accords, and the one that Biden himself has cited, comes from the deal’s failure to move the needle on the Palestinian issue. On this point, Trump may well be vindicated.

Trump’s bullish and childlike approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict was to admit America’s obvious preference for Israel as an ally and dispense with the pretense of mediation, throwing his full support behind Netanyahu. Since retaking office, Biden has revived America’s decades-old policy of feigning neutrality on the issue, whilst giving Israel $3.8 billion each year and turning a blind eye to all but the most egregious actions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

For all his fatuous, self-serving, mercurial tendencies, there might be something to be said of Trump here. Palestine was not the only issue that Trump poked at with childlike fingers; from North Korea to NATO, Trump’s naivety made him like the child in the Emperor’s New Clothes, pointing out the obvious absences in America’s foreign policy that had gone unsaid for so long.

Now, under Biden, America is back to doing what it has long done on the Israel-Palestine issue: rearranging deck chairs. While Israel deepens its occupation, Biden’s current fight is for the reopening of a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, which Israel claims acts as a de facto embassy. But, with Trump having exposed America’s invisible support for Palestinian and a nonentity, does anyone care anymore? If not, maybe history will find something positive to say about Trump’s presidency after all.

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