March 26, 2021

Risch, Portman, Booker, Young, and Cardin Introduce Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2021

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2021. The bill builds upon the success of the Abraham Accords, the peace and normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, by stating U.S. policy is to strengthen and expand these normalization agreements while requiring coordination throughout the administration, specifically the Department of State (State), the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

They are joined on this bill by: Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

“The Abraham Accords between Israel and like-minded nations have the potential to fundamentally change the Middle East for the better,” said Senator Risch. “Former opponents and rivals have come together to address shared challenges, and I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation that reaffirms the United States’ commitment to strengthen and expand these historic agreements.”

“In my visits to the Middle East, I’ve seen the deep and abiding friendships that exist, and the potential for long-term peace and stability,” said Senator Portman. “This bill will encourage normalization of relations between Israel and other countries in the region, which will help build on the success of the Abraham Accords, support our ally Israel and enshrine the longstanding U.S. policy that encourages Arab League states to normalize relations with Israel. Finally, Congress has an opportunity to act in a bipartisan way with this bill, which would send an important signal of unity and solidarity to the international community at a critical time.”

“Expanding the Abraham Accords to strengthen the relationship between Israel and its neighbors is not only a vital U.S. security interest, but is also important for peace and economic prosperity in the region,” said Senator Booker. “Our bipartisan bill leverages American diplomacy to build on momentum to enable the Abraham Accords to reach their full potential. I’m proud to reaffirm the strong bipartisan commitment to Israel’s security.”

“It is critical that the United States and Israel continue building upon the success of last year’s historic Abraham Accords. Helping additional countries normalize relations with Israel would be a significant step forward for Israel and the region at this critical time. Other countries acting to expand and deepen their ties with Israel is not only in Israel’s interest, but would significantly benefit our own national security interests as well,” said Senator Young.

“The recent peace and normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab states will advance vital United States national security interests,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with my colleagues to expand and strengthen the Abraham Accords. This significant legislation would encourage other nations to normalize relations with Israel and ensure that existing agreements produce tangible security and economic benefits.”

Specifically, this bill:

Requires State to provide a strategy to strengthen and expand the Abraham Accords and other related normalization agreements with Israel through;

  • An assessment regarding the future staffing and resourcing requirements of entities across the interagency for expanding and strengthening normalization agreements.
  • An assessment regarding areas of cooperation such as economic, social, cultural, scientific, technical, educational, and health fields, as well as identification of potential roadblocks in these sectors to increased cooperation among states.
  • An assessment regarding potential areas for further security cooperation as well as identification potential roadblocks to future agreements.
  • A detailed description of how the U.S. Government will leverage diplomatic lines of effort and resources from other stakeholders (including from foreign governments, international donors, and multilateral institutions) to encourage normalization, economic development, and people-to-people programming.
  • Recommendations to improve State cooperation and coordination, particularly between the Special Envoy to Monitor Anti-Semitism and the Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and the Office of International Religious Freedom, to combat racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism, which hinder improvement of relations between Israel, Arab states, and other relevant countries and regions.

Requires a report on international efforts to promote normalization through:

  • Identification of existing investment funds that support Israel-Arab state cooperation and recommendations for how such funds could be used to support normalization and increase prosperity for all relevant stakeholders.
  • A proposal for how the U.S. Government and others can utilize the scholars and Arabic language resources of the U.S. Holocaust Museum to counter Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.
  • An assessment of the feasibility and value of increasing the capacity of existing State and USAID-funded programs for developing people-to-people exchange programs for young people between Israel, Arab states, and other relevant countries and regions.
  • An assessment on the value and feasibility of interagency support for inter-parliamentary exchange programs for Members of Congress, Knesset, and parliamentarians from Arab and other relevant countries and regions, including through existing federal programs that support such exchanges.

Requires State to report on the status of anti-normalization laws in Arab states and other relevant countries and regions.

  • Including instances of prosecution of citizens or residents of Arab countries for calling for peace with Israel, visiting the state of Israel, or engaging Israeli citizens in any way. 
  • Instances of extrajudicial retribution by Arab governments or government-controlled institutions against citizens or residents of Arab countries.

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