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The Biden Administration and the Future of the Abraham Accords

For those focused on America’s foreign policy as it relates to Israel and the Middle East, the securing by the Democratic Party of two Senate seats in the recent Georgia special elections caused particular alarm. Democrats now control the White House, House of Representatives and Senate. What direction will be taken by the Biden Administration foreign policy? The fear is that anti-Israel left-wing Democrats who want to control the Biden Administration foreign policy agenda will be able to do whatever they wish and pro-Israel friends won’t be able to stop them.

How assertive will the Biden Administration be on Iran? What will their attitude be toward the Abraham Accords? Will President-elect Joe Biden be able to hold strident left-wing anti-Israel voices in his own party in check?

Barack Obama’s former vice president has pledged to revive the Iran nuclear deal. Biden has made no secret of the fact that he has placed a renewal of the Iran nuclear deal foremost on the plate of his foreign policy and national security team. He intends to pay attention to the Iran question early in his administration.

What will the dimensions of a new Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal look like? In 2015, at the Iran nuclear deal’s inception, Ben Rhodes, one of President Obama’s top deputies, assured Americans that the JCPOA would produce “an evolution in Iranian behavior”; the Iran deal would ensure that the clerical regime would become “more engaged with the international community.” How did that work out?

On Iran, there is reason to be unsettled by Biden’s recent appointment of Avril Haines as director of national intelligence. Haines has a lengthy and strident anti-Israel history. And Biden also tabbed Wendy Sherman, principal architect of the Iran deal, as deputy secretary of state under Antony Blinken. Sherman argued swapping sanctions relief for Iran’s rollback of its nuclear program would absolutely work. It didn’t.

Another Obama alumnus, Jon Finer, formerly John Kerry’s chief of staff, also active in the Iran deal, will become deputy national security adviser, reporting to Jake Sullivan.

William Burns is Biden’s choice as CIA director. Burns was involved in the early stages of forging the Iran nuclear deal. Burns is quoted as saying, “We need to find a way back to an updated nuclear deal with Iran.”

Veteran diplomat Victoria Nuland will be nominated for the role of undersecretary of state for political affairs. As a State Department spokeswoman in the Obama Administration, Nuland was often relentless in her public criticism of Israel during the runup to the Iran nuclear deal.

Are these appointments meant only as a precursor to the hammering out of a new Iran nuclear deal? Or is the Biden Administration also planning a foray into Israeli-Palestinian politics?

Biden intends to nominate Obama alumnus and former Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to lead the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the principal agency overseeing US humanitarian aid.

Power, unable to conceive of a Middle East future without a two-state solution, as ambassador to the United Nations, simply doubled down on John Kerry’s infamous 2016 UN speech prediction that “there will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world.” Power could not foresee the possibility presented by the Abraham Accords – that the Arab-Israeli conflict could end peacefully. She remains today committed to a two-state solution.

The Biden transition team has announced that Power, as head of USAID, would serve as a member of the National Security Council.

One thing is certain. The Biden Administration foreign policy team is filling up with voices that are historically pro-Palestinian and antagonistic and censorious toward the State of Israel. That is a matter of some apprehension and unease for those looking at US foreign policy and how it impacts the State of Israel.

The former vice president has been clear he believes in a two-state solution as the way forward. To place such a premium on pursuing a two-state solution, many argue, represents nothing more than doubling down on a failed strategy.

Equally important: How does the Biden foreign policy team view the collapse of Arab solidarity against Israel? Because the disintegration of Arab unity on the question of Palestine impacts the pursuit of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Optimistically, the promising new advances raised for a peaceful Middle East blazed by the Abraham Accords will not be ignored or shelved. And both Biden and Antony Blinken have been clear that, while holding fast to their belief in a two-state future, they salute the value and importance of the Abraham Accords. The Biden Administration has no intention of trying to roll back the Abraham Accords progress and that, in itself, is de facto recognition that the fate of the Palestinians is no longer an overriding political concern for most Arab regimes.