The Biden administration is the most ideologically rigid and radical administration in US history. Its actions have served to undermine the accords by removing their American foundations.
The Trump administration was on the verge of securing a peace agreement between Israel and Indonesia in its final weeks in office, according to a former senior Trump administration official involved in the efforts. The official divulged that the negotiations between Israel and the world’s most populous Muslim state were run by then-President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Adam Boehler, then-head of the US’s International Development Finance Corporation.
Israel was represented by then-Ambassador Ron Dermer and Indonesia by Minister Mohamed Lutfi. To secure peace, Boehler told Bloomberg News last December, the US would be willing to provide Indonesia with an additional “one or two billion dollars” in aid. Indonesia was interesting in Israeli technology and even wanted the Technion to open a campus in Jakarta. It wanted visa-free travel to the Jewish state and Arab and US investment in its sovereign wealth fund. Israel wanted Indonesia to end its economic boycott of the Jewish state. Direct flights from Tel Aviv to Bali were on the table.
The advantages of peace between Israel and Indonesia for both sides are self-evident. But such a peace would also pay a huge dividend to the US in its burgeoning cold war with China. An expanded strategic and economic partnership with the archipelago and ASEAN member would be a setback for China’s efforts to dominate the South China Sea, particularly with Indonesia playing a role in an Islamic-Israeli alliance led by the US.
“We got the ball on Indonesia and Israel to the first-yard line,” the official explained. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has dropped the ball on the ground and walked off the field.
On the surface, the Biden administration is interested in promoting peace. President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have praised the Abraham Accords, as well they should.
For 26 years, the Arab conflict with Israel was ignored and left to fester. Then suddenly, in Trump’s last year in office, the situation was reversed as four Arab states rapidly normalized their ties with Israel. Expanding the accords to Indonesia, with its massive population and strategic location outside the Middle East would transform a strategic regional shift into a game-changer throughout Asia.
But despite the strategic logic of expanding the Abraham Accords and the praise Biden and Blinken have given them, starting in its first week in office, the new administration’s actions have served to undermine the accords by removing their American foundations.
A week into the Biden administration, the State Department announced it was “placing a hold” on the $23 billion sale of F-35s to the United Arab Emirates. The move was presented as “a routine administrative action typical to most any transition.”
But suspending the sale was a strategic move, not an “administrative action.” The normalization deal between Israel and the UAE was a three-sided agreement. The Americans were full participants. The F-35 sale was America’s way to solidify the UAE’s membership in an American-led regional alliance of which the Abraham Accords were an expression. Suspending the deal indicated that unlike its predecessor, the Biden administration will not work to strengthen its alliance with the Sunni Arabs and Israel, and will not fulfill the commitments that the Trump administration took on to develop and maintain that alliance through Arab-Israeli peace.