Spread Over Us a Canopy of Your Peace | Opinion

This month, Jews in the United States and around the world came together to usher in the New Year and celebrate the creation of the world. It is a season to reflect upon the past year and to ready ourselves for the coming one.

In many respects, this last year was a most challenging one. We have lived through a relentless pandemic and ongoing political discord. We have seen continued violence abroad and even here, in some of our largest cities. Yet despite the troubles we have endured, the American Jewish community has been the recipient of many blessings, and it is right for us to acknowledge them and express our gratitude.

We should celebrate the achievements of past and present American administrations in bringing nations together to work toward forging a lasting peace.

Last month marked the first anniversary of what we can only hope is but the first phase of normalization agreements—commonly referred to as the Abraham Accords—that normalized relations between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and then quickly grew to include Bahrain and Morocco. (Work continues to finalize the normalization agreement with Sudan.) The historic Accords mark the most significant diplomatic achievement in the Middle East in a generation. They will open new vistas for trade, tourism, technology sharing, educational exchanges and inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.

One year ago—on September 15, 2020—I had the extraordinary privilege of witnessing the signing of the Accords between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain on the South Lawn of the White House. At the time, I felt that I was witnessing history, the beginning of a long-overdue—and long-hoped for—process. Nations realizing that they could be friends, not foes.

Already, we are seeing the first fruits of these new relationships bloom. Israel and the UAE have exchanged ambassadors, and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made a high-profile visit to open an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai. Some 200,000 Israelis have already visited the UAE, and they can even enjoy kosher-certified food there. One can now take a direct flight from Israel to Dubai, Bahrain or Marrakech. Commercial ties across a variety of sectors are expanding apace. These are all major achievements with many more to come, we can only hope.

A road is decorated with the flags
A road is decorated with the flags of (L-R) the US, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Bahrain, in the resort city of Netanya in central Israel, on September 13, 2020. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

The Abraham Accords represent nothing less than a monumental paradigm shift with the potential of transforming the region into a sphere of real peace and common prosperity. Americans can help nurture the Accords by supporting efforts to build upon these achievements, including the array of new business and cultural initiatives that are rapidly developing between Israel and her Arab partners.

President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have repeatedly reaffirmed U.S. support for deepening and expanding the Accords in their engagements with Israeli and Arab leaders. I hope that the manifold benefits that these Accords produce will also encourage other Islamic nations to similarly normalize relations with the Jewish state, and we are heartened that the Biden administration is encouraging these countries to consider taking their own steps toward such normalizations. We even note yet another good sign of the continuing dialogue: modest events and meetings this week in D.C. and New York marking the one-year anniversary of the Accords, with ambassadors and foreign ministers.

In this vein, the recent meeting of Egypt's Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, King Abdullah II of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas to discuss restarting a moribund peace process brings hope to those who seek a secure and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And earlier this week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Egyptian President el-Sisi at Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai peninsula, specifically to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We also deeply appreciate President Biden's continued staunch support of Israel and its security, particularly during the recent conflict with Hamas, and of his warm reception of Prime Minister Bennett at the White House last month.

As the Biden administration turns its eyes toward revisiting the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, we ask that the president hold firm to his stated commitment "to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon." The appointment of former Ambassador to Israel Daniel B. Shapiro to serve as the liaison to Israel on the staff of the U.S. special envoy on Iran further suggests that the administration takes seriously our special relationship with Israel and its legitimate security interests, and will engage in continued dialogue and mutual action with our close ally on this critical issue.

We are thankful, too, that Congress has passed legislation elevating the State Department's special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism to the rank of ambassador, which will provide the position with more clout to address this serious problem in the international arena, and of the Department's clear embrace of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's Working Definition of Anti-Semitism. And we are pleased that the Senate will soon consider the president's nomination of the esteemed professor and antisemitism expert, Deborah Lipstadt, to fill this important role.

Our time is still fraught and there is much work yet to be done. As we prepare ourselves for the remaining holidays and the coming year, let us seek strength from the words of the Hashkiveinu prayer calling upon the Creator to spread over us a sukkath shlomecha, "a canopy of Your peace."

G'mar chatima tova. May you each be inscribed in the Book of Life for good.

William C. Daroff is CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.