Remarks at the Abraham Accords Institute of Peace

REMARKS

YAEL LEMPERT , ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY
BUREAU OF NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS

WASHINGTON, DC

SEPTEMBER 14, 2021

Thank you. I’m delighted to be here to celebrate with you these historic agreements and all the progress that has been made over the last year.

I want to begin by acknowledging the incredible group of nations represented here today: Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Morocco, and, of course, the guests of honor – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel.

When I first started focusing on the Middle East nearly 30 years ago, I would have been hard pressed to imagine that I would one day address this collection of countries. That was a heady period, including in 1994 when the Wadi Araba treaty was signed – I visited Jordan traveling from Israel shortly thereafter, and was truly awed at the tremendous opportunities and potential that had been unlocked.

Similarly, what your countries have done creates the opportunity for nothing short of transformation. And it demonstrates to the world what’s possible when countries put aside their differences and build bridges.

Already, people across the region are benefiting from the Abraham Accords. Trade and investment are booming, creating new opportunities for both the young and the marginalized. Cultural programs and academic exchanges are bridging divides, pushing back against extremism, and building a culture of tolerance.

While much progress has been made already, the Abraham Accords represent not an end, but a beginning. The Biden Administration made clear from the very outset that it will continue working to expand normalization efforts and bring new countries into the fold. As Secretary Blinken has said, “We will continue to urge more countries to normalize relations with Israel – and will look for other opportunities to expand cooperation among countries in the region. As a result, I expect Israel’s group of friends to grow even wider in the year ahead.”

These efforts, led by Secretary Blinken, Counselor Chollet, and others, working with our partners represented in this room, are already bearing fruit. In August, Israel and Morocco announced that they would be upgrading their relationship by opening embassies. Bahrain’s first Ambassador to Israel will present his credentials today, and Israel named its future Ambassador to Bahrain earlier this month.

And this October, Israel will participate in Expo 2020 in Dubai alongside the United States in the largest public diplomacy event this year. We look forward to building on this progress in the months and years ahead.

It is fitting that we are here today, one day after 28th anniversary of the Oslo Accords. It reminds us of the work that was done by peacemakers before us and of the work still yet ahead. In addition to supporting normalization, the Biden administration will continue to seek progress on creating the conditions for a viable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

George Mitchell, the architect of the Good Friday Agreements and no stranger to Middle East peace efforts, perhaps described the process of peacemaking best when he spoke of, “One day of success, preceded by 700 days of failure.” Though efforts to advance an Israeli-Palestinian peace have faced many setbacks, the agreements we are celebrating today prove that the past does not dictate the future. As Israel and other countries in the region join together in a common effort to build bridges, I am confident we will find new opportunities to make tangible progress towards a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Just over a year ago, it was impossible to imagine, for example, UAE-financed water or energy deals that could benefit Palestinians and Israelis alike, but now that is just another commercial investment. There are so many areas of complementarity and mutual benefit between Israel, Arab states, and the Palestinians. We are still just scratching the surface.

By making Israel more secure and opening new channels for constructive dialogue and diplomacy, even more new possibilities can arise. By lowering barriers, we’re empowering people on both sides to dream up their own possibilities.

In the end, that is what the Abraham Accords and normalization writ large is about: bringing people together to realize new possibilities. That’s why I’m so honored to be here today to celebrate this achievement. I look forward to working with you all to continue to advance this truly historic project.