The Abraham Accords: Combatting Anti-Semitism in the MENA Region

The Abraham Accords: Combatting Anti-Semitism in the MENA Region

Over the past few years, several countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have sought to normalise their relations with Israel. In September 2020, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) decided to normalise their diplomatic relations with the Jewish State by signing the Abraham Accords. Morocco and Sudan soon followed. In some cases, this rapprochement has also taken place in parallel with national policies to help to combat anti-Semitism or anti-Jewish sentiment. Bahrain and Morocco, historically home to a large Jewish community, signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the United States (US) to combat anti-Semitism in October 2020 and January 2021 respectively.

To fulfil this mission, the Biden administration appointed Deborah Lipstadt as its special envoy. On 26 June, Ambassador Lipstadt embarked on a tour to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE ahead of President Joe Biden’s official visit to the region in mid-July. According to the State Department, Lipstadt’s regional tour is intended to promote “interfaith understanding, as well as combating intolerance and anti-Jewish sentiment.

KSA-Israel: Headed Towards Normalisation?

Unlike the UAE and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia has not opted for normalisation with Israel. Nevertheless, like its Gulf neighbours, Riyadh is balancing a range of geopolitical interests and the Saudi government is also seeking to intensify economic diversification away from oil, as evidenced in Vision 2030 unveiled in 2018. Furthermore, according to The Wall Street Journal, several Israeli entrepreneurs are in talks with Saudi Arabia for investments in high-tech companies. The easing of tensions was also evidenced by Riyadh’s decision to allow Israeli planes flying to the UAE to use its airspace.

The Biden administration has also stressed the US President’s readiness to encourage Riyadh to normalise relations with Israel when he is in the region. “What I want to do is see to it that we diminish the likelihood that there’s a continuation of some of these senseless wars between Israel and the Arab nations. That's my focus,” President Biden said in June regarding his upcoming trip to the Middle East.

The Saudi government has reiterated its commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which conditions normalisation with Israel to the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. As for Israel, it has clearly stated its eagerness to normalise relations with Riyadh. “We want a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia,” Yair Lapid, the Israeli Prime Minister and former Israeli Foreign Minister, said.

In mid-July, President Joe Biden is expected to head directly to Jeddah after a stop in Tel Aviv. 

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