By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News -
The new American administration has decided to put on hold its mega-investment fund that was supposed to help strengthen regional ties after last year’s signing of the Abraham Accords, Globes reported Wednesday, based on American and Israeli sources.
The Abraham Fund was established immediately after Israel signed the historic normalization agreement with the UAE and Bahrain in September 2020.
It was to be underwritten by some $3 billion from both the U.S. government and private financial institutions to “promote economic cooperation and to encourage prosperity in the Middle East and beyond.”
After getting off to a running start, approving more than 10 projects in such fields as energy and fin-tech and reviewing hundreds more, it came to a sudden stop when Joe Biden won the presidential elections. The Fund’s head, appointed by former president Trump, left, and a successor has yet to be chosen.
According to Globes, the administration has told Israel that the Fund’s activities were being “reassessed.”
It also cited “a senior U.S. source” who said that while the White House wants the Abraham Accords to succeed, it will only promote the diplomatic side and has “indefinitely frozen” the Fund.
At least one of the reported reasons for the kibosh is that the Biden administration wants to focus its spending internally, in order to pull the country out of the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Congress is now discussing a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan as part of these efforts.
It is also no secret that the Democrats want to overturn almost everything their hated Republican predecessor did. As soon as he was sworn in, Biden froze a multi-billion-dollar weapons deal with the UAE, which included 50 of the most advanced F-35 aircraft that had been a specific Trump incentive to get Abu Dhabi to the table with Israel. It was only given the green light in April, with a target delivery date of 2025 or later.
UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed announced in March that his country would set up a different fund in Israel with the same stated aims as the Abraham Fund. This one, he said, would have $10 billion to invest primarily in the private sector, in many fields including health, space, energy and industry.
As of yet, the fund is on paper only, and Globes reported that other economic opportunities have not been realized by Israel’s new government, either.
When Foreign Minister Yair Lapid went last week to inaugurate the new Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi, he signed an umbrella trade and economic agreement with his Emirati counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He also took the time to meet with online influencers – but he cancelled a meeting with leaders of the business community, even though he had told the paper that strengthened trade ties was at the top of his priority list during his visit.
“We’re in a tough period economically, with a need for solutions for deficits and budgets, and the answer is economic development – that’s what’s happening here. The ties with the Emirates and the diplomatic and trade agreements are a real win-win,” he told the business daily.
One of the snubbed Emiratis told Globes, “The foreign minister preferred a meeting with Internet influencers who have tens of thousands of followers, instead of with businesspeople who have the capacity to invest billions in Israel.”
Image: The White House from Washington, DC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons