US senators introduced legislation yesterday to boost Israel’s normalisation efforts with Arab countries with $105 million of American tax-payers’ money and a designated special envoy who will lead on integrating the occupation state to the region.
The bill is sponsored by Senators Bob Menendez and Jim Risch, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Menendez has been the beneficiary of donations from pro-Israel groups. According to the non-profit organisation that tracks data on campaign finance and lobbying, OpenSecrets, the New Jersey senator has received $727,522 from such groups.
The legislation seeks to deepen and expand the so-called Abraham Accords mediated by former President Donald Trump. Proponents of the legislation say it will “authorise tangible tools to strengthen and expand the circle of peace, and encourage deeper ties between Abraham Accords members.”
The $150 million that will be made available are to be used to integrate the private and public sector of countries that sign up to the Abraham Accords. Details of the legislation reported by Haaretz revealed that funds will be used by the secretary of state in coordination with the special envoy or transferred to other departments and agencies. It would also establish a young leaders initiative providing fellowships, leadership and cultural exchange programmes.
New funds to expand a variety of efforts, including $6 million for grants for the USAID programme dealing with scientific research, will be authorised. A further $2.5 million for State Department multilateral initiatives, $4 million for projects involving water and energy and $1 million facilitating educational and cultural exchange programs. The legislation also supports creating and negotiating a framework for economic development and cooperation between the involved nations.
The bill was proposed a day after Israel’s President Isaac Herzog addressed the US Congress. In addition to a bill to bolster the Abraham Accords, US lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution proclaiming that Israel is “not a racist or apartheid state.” The move appears to have been directed not only at progressive critics in Washington, but also to shield Israel from criticism and hand supporters of the occupation state ammunition with which to push back against growing support for the Palestinian cause in America and elsewhere.