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State Department Shuns Term ‘Abraham Accords’

Emails reveal employees should refer to historic Israel peace deals as 'normalization agreements'

Ned Price
Ned Price / Getty Images
• June 4, 2021 4:15 pm

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The Biden State Department discourages employees from referring to the historic peace agreements signed by Israel and its Arab neighbors by its official name, the Abraham Accords, according to one source with direct knowledge of the Biden administration’s internal decision-making process and emails reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. The name has also been erased from a wide array of official State Department communications as the new administration presses officials to refer to the Trump-era deals as "normalization agreements."

The Abraham Accords were brokered last year by the outgoing Trump administration and paved the way for Israel to make peace with traditional Arab foes, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and, later, other Muslim nations. The agreements were a capstone of former president Donald Trump’s foreign policy legacy and created a shift in the region that brought leading Arab nations closer to the Jewish state and further from Iran.

The Free Beacon reviewed two internal State Department emails detailing to employees that the agreements will no longer be referred to as the Abraham Accords but only as "normalization agreements." No reason was given for the policy, the source said. The department also purged the term "Abraham Accords" from its talking points, documents, statements, and official communications, the source said, adding that senior department officials have been very "cagey" about explaining the policy decision and have sought to keep it quiet.

Following inquiries to the State Department about the emails and the source’s information, a spokesman told the Free Beacon, "the Department would refer to the Abraham Accords as such." The department declined to comment on the emails in question or make clear whether its statement represents another shift in policy. A State Department official, speaking only on background, said, "This administration is not focused on what these agreements are called but what they mean."

It is unclear what impact the Biden administration believes the change will have. The State Department declined to explain its position. "It's a name the Trump administration came up with, a branding they came up with, and they prefer not to use it because it's associated with President Trump. For the U.S. to shy away from that term, it's absurd, petty, and silly." Team Biden, the source said, further saw the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas terror groups "as an, ‘Ah-ha!’ moment to shit on the Abraham Accords."

Rumors of the policy first surfaced in early April, when Associated Press diplomatic correspondent Matthew Lee pressed State Department spokesman Ned Price to publicly state the official name of the peace agreements. Price bristled at first, before reluctantly calling them the "Abraham Accords."

Video of the exchange made the rounds in Washington, D.C., foreign policy circles, with former senior Trump administration officials expressing confusion and anger at what they described as a policy aimed mainly at diminishing the former administration’s achievements.

"What do you call these agreements?" Lee asked Price.

"They’re normalization agreements," Price replied.

"Yes, but what is the name of them?" Lee pressed.

"Normalization agreements," Price stated again.

"Yeah, but there’s a specific name that they [the parties] all signed onto. I believe you know what it is."

"Look, we call them normalization agreements; that’s precisely what they are," Price responded, looking visibly uncomfortable.

Lee pushed on, asking, "Why do you not use the name that the leaders of these countries signed onto, which is the Abraham Accords?"

"I’m not averse to using that," Price responded. "I’m just describing what these are."

"Can you say it for me, please?" Lee asked.

"Of course, I can say the term, Abraham Accords," Price said. "But we call them normalization agreements."

The Biden administration’s attacks on its predecessor's Middle East policies continued in mid-May, as Israel went to war with Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. At that time, White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed the Trump administration did not do "anything constructive" to promote peace in the region and end the decades-long conflict between Israel and its neighbors.

Victoria Coates, a former senior official on the Trump White House’s National Security Council who played a central role in paving the way for the Abraham Accords to be signed, told the Free Beacon that the State Department’s behavior is "unfortunate and insidious."

"The Biden administration's attempt to diminish and marginalize the Abraham Accords by referring to them as ‘normalization deals’ is both unfortunate and insidious," Coates aid. "It’s a shame to try to undermine such a monumental, historic achievement because it was reached by the previous administration. But the term ‘normalization' is even worse—as they are well aware, the term carries a regional stigma, particularly with the Palestinians, of being a sell-out. The Abraham Accords are so much more and should be given the same bipartisan support as the peace treaties between Israel, Jordan, and Egypt reached by Democrat administrations."