April 18. 2024. 12:42

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Europe slowly understands the importance of the Abraham Accords


Trapped in an old narrative about the Mideast peace process and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the EU was reluctant to embrace the Abraham Accords which were viewed as an American initiative led by then President Donald Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner nd other senior officials in the administration.

According to Dutch member of the European Parliament Bert-Jan Ruissen, who is Vice Chairman of the parliament’s delegation for relations with Israel. "one of the reasons for this reserved attitude is the fact that some decision-makers in the E.U. had to acknowledge that their narrative is obsolete. And that’s not always easy to acknowledge, that your narrative is wrong.”

Since then however and with the growing development of the relations between Israel, Bahrein, the UAE and Morocco, the EU has apparently slowly acknowledged the importance of the accords for the political and economic stability of the region.

Daniel Meron, deputy director general for Europe at the Israeli foreign ministry, recently said that at first Europe didn’t realize “something dramatic” was happening, and “it took some time until statements came out in Brussels congratulating the sides.”

"It was very complicated for the EU in the beginning to understand this development," said Israel’s ambassador to the EU and NATO, Haim Regev, who spoke during a symposium organized last week by the European Coalition for Israel (ECI) in the European Parliament in Brussels on the topic "How to expand the circle of peace?"

The symposium was a first of its kind that brought together European stakeholders both from the European Commission and the European Parliament with some of the key states behind the Abraham Accords to discuss the next steps of the normalisation process.

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"From the EU perspective, the Abraham Accords were something between Israel, some Arab regimes and the Trump administration. It took time for us to convince them that this was a deep and dramatic development, that they should be part of it. In the last three months, we see a real change led by EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy Oliver Varhelyi. The EU is becoming more pragmatic, more practical," said Haim Regev.

The Israeli ambassador gave as example the fact that last month for the first time Israel participated in a trilateral workshop in Rabat with the EU and Morocco, financed by the EU. For the first time the EU financed a trilateral workshop that will lead to projects in the field of water, for the construction of new desalination plants, wastewater management and water efficiency projects. Commissioner Varhelyi allocated 10 million euros to expand those kind of activities and cooperation as a new European facility in support of the Abraham Accords which he said have created a new paradigm, a new regional language offering new opportunities for business, people, trade and travel.

There is a new a steering committee led by the EU embassy in Tel Aviv which together with Israel is looking into additional projects not only with Morocco but also with Bahrein, the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinians, Jordan and Egypt;

"Soon we hope to have within the European Parliament a Abraham Accords network. We have also held a joint seminar in NATO that brought experts from Israel, Bahrein, Morocco to see what we can do together," said Haim Regev.

"There is a growing interest and appetite in the EU to be part of the Abraham Accords. Our goal in the near future is to see the EU participate at the next Negev Forum meeting in Morocco. When I look ahead, I see that there is more and more openness from the EU to be part of it," he said.

"This is a tremendous development for the stability of the region, for the EU’s relations with the region. And this is not coming at the expense of the Palestinians," he added.

At the Brussels symposium, senior members of the European Parliament challenged the European Commission to do more. “The European Union could start by becoming an official signatory of the Abraham Accords”, said Swedish MEP David Lega. “The European Union could align more with the countries who have already signed the Abraham Accords and offer them free trade agreements,” suggested Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl.

Spanish MEP Antonio López-Istúriz White, chairman of the EU parliament delegation for relations with Israel regretted the lack of enthusiasm for the Abraham Accords in Europe over the last three years. “We were not there from the beginning but now we need to step up and get involved”, he said.

“The dynamics behind the Abraham Accords is the same as in the early days of the European integration process, he explained. “No one could believe that old enemies such as the French and the Germans could one day sit down together at the same table to discuss cooperation but today it is a reality! The same thing is happening in the Middle East and Europe should be the first to actively support this process.

Answering a question on what more the EU could do concretely to support the process of normalisation, Bahrein’s Ambassador to the EU, Belgium and NATO Abdulla Bin Faisal Al Doseri called upon the European Union to issue an official statement or declaration in support of the Abraham Accords. “This would give the right signal to those nations which are currently considering joining this new circle of peace as they would understand that it has the full support of the European Union,” he said.

Michael Mann, who heads the Middle East and North Africa department at the EU’s External Service, stressed that the EU would like to include the Palestinians in the Negev Forum. "We will discuss it with them," he said. He also stressed that 2022 was "a very good year" for the EU-Israel relations as he mentioned the fact that the EU-Israel Association Council met for The first time in 12 years and that several EU top officials visited Israel.

ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell told the EU officials represented at the symposium that in order to include the Palestinians in this peace process the EU needs to immediately apply conditionality on any future funding of Palestinian textbooks to prevent further radicalization. The UAE was commended for including Holocaust education in its new curriculum. “If we want future generations to live in peace and co-existence with each other we have to prepare them from the very beginning and not allow for incitement and hatred in school textbooks,” Sandell said.

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