Trump Mideast Envoy Berkowitz: Biden Will Harm Peace Deals

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A Biden presidency could harm normalization accords between Israel and Arab states if it chooses to reverse the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump’s special Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz said in an interview published Thursday.

“I am nervous, if I am just being completely honest,” said Berkowitz, who was in Israel this week as part of the United Arab Emirates’ first official state visit to the country.

Democratic hopeful Joe Biden has indicated he would consider reentering the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, Berkowitz said, adding that constituted a “significant fear” of his. Taking such a step would also cause consternation among Arab states that are opposed to Iran, especially among existing US and new Israeli allies in the Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“If you are in a world where the U.S. is isolating its partners in the Middle East it becomes a lot more difficult to capitalize in the way that we were able,” Berkowitz told Professor Moshe Koppel, Chairman and Founder of the Kohelet Policy Forum, at an online conference.

“So [reversing the withdrawal] is a significant fear of mine that I hope will never be realized because I think it could not be more important that President Trump be the one in charge of these things,” he added.

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Berkowitz said the U.S.-brokered normalization accords showed the “world that Israel can make peace, and did make peace with UAE and Bahrain.”

He added that the choice to suspend  suspend Israel’s plans to apply sovereignty to the West Bank was in favor of the UAE peace deal on the table, but that ultimately the move had the Trump administration’s backing.

“The notion of applying Israeli law to areas of the West Bank, is not something that we fundamentally disagree with, in fact it is something that we fundamentally would support,” Berkowitz said.

“What became apparent was that in order to capitalize on this momentous historic opportunity, it was necessary to suspend a component of the vision for peace,” Berkowitz said, referencing Trump’s plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which calls for 30 percent of the West Bank to be annexed by Israel.

“Now that is not to say that in the foreseeable future [the issue of sovereignty] could not come back and it is not to say that we fundamentally disagree with what our position was initially, and in fact we still stand behind that position and it is very important to us, and I think everyone should understand that, but understanding that certain opportunities arise when they do and taking advantage to capitalize on them, i.e. the Abraham Accords, was also paramount in this case,” Berkowitz added.

Palestinian intransigence and rejectionism  of Trump’s peace plan ironically paved the way for rapprochement between Israel and the Arab Gulf states.

The Palestinians’ “inability or unwillingness to engage was seen by a lot regional partners as an inappropriate way to handle discourse,” Berkowitz said.

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