Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen on Israel’s ‘revolutionary’ summit

Experts from the U.S. Institute of Peace discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124.

Transcription

Julie Mason
Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen is director of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict program at the US Institute of Peace. Previously, she worked with the State Department as an Arabic language specialist and as a program officer for the Kennedy School of Government’s Middle East initiatives at Harvard. She is here to discuss a very important summit that was held in Israel. Hi Lucy.

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen
Hi Julia.

Julie Mason
It’s really great to find you at the top. I mean, there was a bit of play, but not too much. Can you tell us about it?

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen
Sure. Although this is really a groundbreaking meeting that you saw last week, you had at the level of foreign ministers Israel, and for the Arab states, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, as well as the United States, again, at the foreign ministers’ level meeting in Israel, so deeply symbolic, certainly, you can’t think of a more dramatic way perhaps to underline the acceptance of Israel, in the Arab world in the region by these Arab States. Since the signing of Abraham McCoy, this meeting, let’s remember, was Israel’s invitation. And not only did this not only take place in Israel, but really in a rather symbolic place. It took place at Kibbutz Baca, which is very deeply associated in the minds of Israelis, as the final resting place of David Ben-Gurion, who is really the founding father of Israel, the first signatory of the Declaration of Independence of ‘Israel. So again, symbolically, certainly, what you had here is something quite powerful. And let’s also remember that it was that the United States was there. But as a guest, we are used to seeing these kind of summits, whereas we have seen them a few times in the past organized by a third party. And here, it was really a very local effort.

Julie Mason
It’s interesting, isn’t it to see the United States and other countries relying on the Abraham Accords?

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen
Absoutely. I mean, again, when it started, I think they were certainly considered historic and groundbreaking at the time, but I think there were questions about how far could they go, and what we’ve really seen to varying degrees with the different countries that are engaged, but we’ve really seen a flourishing and full speed ahead. In some cases, we’ve seen embassies set up, we’ve seen, you know, trade deals, deals, on, on energy, really all kinds of signs that it wasn’t just a blip, that they are truly here to stay. And I think the one thing to look at is that there was a lot of analysis, when the Abraham Accords were signed, that it was really Iran that was the main motivating factor in the sense of a threat shared by Israel in the United States, certainly in the case of the Emirates and return of rain. But what you’ve really seen are these agreements, and these relationships go beyond just joining forces in the face of this common threat, but to really look at opportunities all the way. Again, when it comes to things like the economy, tourism, it was announced at the end of the summit, that there were these working groups to be established, one of which deals with security , but other issues concerning tourism, energy, health, education. So again, you really feel like these are countries looking for shared opportunities, not just trying to find common cause against shared security threats.

Julie Mason
Is the underlying, is there an underlying motivation for this, the idea that with greater economic prosperity, there will be less opportunity or less need for violent conflict?

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen
Well, certainly that could be part of the consideration, again, because there are many opportunities that countries see here. And I think there’s probably some sense that it can certainly help a situation where, you know, I think a lot of people make an association between violence and lack of opportunity, lack of employment, that kind of of factors. But I think, I think again, that’s also what I read in this engagement, which goes back to this idea of ​​the United States being at the top, Tony Blinken being there as a guest because it’s really these countries, in terms of what you call self-reliance, I think over the last few years the states have felt that the United States is pulling out of the Middle East. It is certainly their perception. And I think what you’re seeing are these countries saying that maybe we can no longer count on the United States to weigh in on the interests that we have in mind. And so it’s, it’s up to us to start putting more energy into it. And so that’s what I read quite significantly both visually symbolically, again, the United States being invited there rather than being the host, as one might have to be expected with this kind of dramatic peak in the past, but really also a taking the reins of his future.

Julie Mason
What about the idea of ​​the two-state solution? We know that the Israeli, the current Israeli government is not that interested?

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen
Yes. So what was very interesting, another interesting thing about this summit actually, I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but it actually happened exactly 20 years to the day since the signing of the ‘Arab Peace Initiative in 2002. And just a quick reminder of what the Arab Peace Initiative was, which was a groundbreaking agreement itself at a time when the Arab states, at the Arab League summit in Beirut, got together and said, after decades since 1967, to say we wouldn’t recognize it, well, we won’t negotiate with Israel, we won’t have peace with Israel. Of course, Egypt and Jordan had made peace in the meantime, quite controversially at first, but there had really been this block of not accepting Israel and maintaining those three nose principles that in 2002 of the Arab Peace Initiative, the state said, we will agree to normalize relations and have peace with Israel, once there is a negotiated two-state solution and a state Palestinian will be created. And that line had really been toed until the Abraham Accords shattered that paradigm of the two-state Palestinian state solution having to happen first. So you have the summit taking place 20 years to the day since it was signed. And so it wouldn’t be wrong to say, Well, it seems that this idea of ​​needing to be a Palestinian state no longer hinders any progress or cooperation between states. But I think it’s also important to note that if you watch the press conference at the end of the summit, the term two-state solution was used a lot. Tony Blinken, the Secretary of State made a point of saying that this summit is historic and that these relations do not replace progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front. The Moroccan Foreign Minister stressed the importance of achieving this goal. You had the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, who made this the focus of his remarks. The Bahraini foreign minister also mentioned it. So I think what we’re seeing is yes, we’re no longer at a point where those kinds of relationships, the shared interests, the states see that they’re not going to be held back by any progress on that front. But the question is certainly still relevant. Well. And we should also note that what was glaringly missing from this summit was Jordan. Yeah, who while the summit was going on was actually in Ramallah to meet President Abbas.

Julie Mason
Ah, so it was a scheduling conflict and not some kind of deliberate omission on anyone’s part.

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen
I don’t think we know. I don’t know if we will ever find out. But it was certainly a striking juxtaposition that King Abdullah of Jordan was meeting with Palestinian Authority leaders to talk about concerns of violence, that everyone is very concerned about a time of heightened tensions, Ramadan began this weekend. end, Passover is approaching at Easter will also occur. And these are usually times when tensions arise, especially in Jerusalem around shared holy sites. And again, of course, the summit also took place against the backdrop of an upsurge in terrorist attacks. In Israel, I believe there were 11 deaths from terrorist attacks in just one week during this period surrounding the summit. So, again, this is a conflict that can sometimes be pushed aside but will not be ignored.

Julie Mason
And finally Lucy, this summit was very far from Ukraine, but was the conflict in Ukraine mentioned?

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen
I am convinced that the Ukrainian conflict was on the agenda. You know, each of these players in the Middle East has a different set of central considerations and interests in relation to this conflict and also sometimes different from the United States. You know, if you look at Egypt, just like some of that was there, they’re the biggest importer of wheat in the world, and I believe over 70% of that wheat comes from Russia and from Ukraine, I believe, mainly Russia, you have a period of time, but because of this war, there are oil prices going up, wheat and other basic products, you know, like prices of these are rising, there is absolute concern in many of these countries about the destabilizing effects. So, of course, we can assume that I think this issue was ongoing. The Russian war in Ukraine was certainly central to the US agenda and perspective. They also have an interest in convincing the UAE who were there to really help them mitigate the oil price hike that you’ve seen because of this so far. This revealed some tensions in the relationship between the UAE and Saudi Arabia and the United States. But it’s something that all of these actors have in mind.

Julie Mason
Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, thank you very much for joining me this morning.

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen
Thanks for having me, Julie.

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