President Joe Biden on Thursday offered a wholehearted endorsement to the Abraham Accords, a series of normalisation agreements between Israel and several Middle East monarchies brokered during the Trump administration. Mr Biden added that he would work to expand the efforts under his predecessor to deepen ties between Israel and its neighbours.
“We will also continue building on the Abraham Accords, which I strongly support because they deepen, they deepen Israel’s integration into the broader region and establish lasting ties for business, cooperation, and tourism,” Mr Biden said during a press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Mr Biden also noted that he will next travel to Saudi Arabia by flying aboard Air Force One directly to Jeddah on Friday. He will be the first US president to make such a direct flight, and many experts say the decision by Saudi Arabia to allow a direct flight from Israel could portend steps towards normalising relations between Israel and the kingdom, such as allowing overflights by Israel’s state-owned airline, El-al.
The president added that the flight he will take “represents important progress”.
The accords, which were signed in August 2020, were the result of negotiations led by former president Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and Mr Kushner’s assistant Avi Berkowitz.
While Mr Biden’s foreign relations efforts have in large part been intended to repudiate his predecessor’s policies, he and his administration have embraced the normalisation agreements and have sought to bring more countries into the accords.
Mr Biden has also appeared to stand by Mr Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the site of what was previously the US consulate in West Jerusalem, and to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In his opening remarks after he and Mr Lapid had both signed a joint declaration on the US-Israel strategic partnership, Mr Biden said he was “honoured” to be in “the capital of Israel”.
Although the Knesset — Israel’s parliament — and most government ministries are located in West Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Israeli Defence Forces general staff and most foreign diplomatic missions remain located in Tel Aviv, and many western government do not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But a National Security Council spokesperson told The Independent Mr Biden’s statement reflected the US government’s position.
“President Biden reiterated the U.S. position that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and that it continues to be the policy of the United States,” the spokesperson said. They added that “specific boundaries” of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem “must be resolved through final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians”.
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