The Middle East is rapidly changing, and in some cases, for the better. One of the themes prevalent around the time of the Abraham Accords was that such was unthinkable just a few years prior. In this week’s Action Update, we start with an even more “once unthinkable” reality in which we presently find ourselves.

A Secret Meeting

News broke over the weekend, that back in March, the United States brought together high-ranking military leaders from Israel and several Arab countries to maximize coordination between these nations in the effort to confront Iran.

The meeting of senior officers from Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is unprecedented. Some of these countries don’t even have diplomatic relations with Israel. But they still communicate and at times cooperate with the Jewish state when it is mutually beneficial.

Certain adages remain true, and one is that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The Middle Eastern pessimist might add “at least for now,” to the end of that sentiment, but all of these nations are negatively impacted – to say the least – by Iran’ s malign activities.

Moreover, there is always potential for the relationship between Arab nations and Israel to grow into something greater. Each-and-every day the countries that are party to the Abraham Accords see new economic opportunities develop and materialize. As Middle Eastern leaders inch forward towards relative liberalization, their relationships with the West, including Israel, will become less about convenience and more about an increasingly prosperous future.

The Next Leader of the PA?

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of a Palestinian politician named Hussein al-Sheikh, but after today, you should remember that name. Al-Sheikh was recently appointed the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and head of the PLO negotiating team. Effectively, al-Sheikh is now Mahmoud Abbas’s number two.

Al-Shiekh has a checkered past, including spending eleven years in prison in Israel and being involved in the Unified National Command of the First Intifada, so don’t get too hopeful that even with an inevitable changing of the guard in Ramallah peace will break out in the Middle East.

This said, it is worth noting that in more recent years, al-Shiekh has been focused largely on Palestinian civil affairs, and he maintains relations with Israeli, American and other nations’ diplomats. And lest anyone forget, you don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your adversaries, provided they are reasonable and pragmatic enough to understand why such is in everyone’s interests. Maybe al-Sheikh will fit that mold if the opportunity arises.

While even for the most seasoned Middle East analysts, predicting who will succeed Abbas is a fool’s errand, al-Shiekh’s elevation is notable, and he’s a personality worth watching amongst the factions who will vie to fill the inevitable post-Abbas power vacuum.

A Discussion About the DEFEND Act

In case you missed it, last week, the Action Fund’s Boris Zilberman participated in an online discussion with Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) about the benefits of the Abraham Accords, the Iranian threat to the region, and the DEFEND Act.

Following the live discussion, Zilberman had this to say, “It was a pleasure to speak with Senator Ernst about the threats facing Israel and how US leadership - whether through the support of key missile defense programs or history-changing initiatives such as the Abraham Accords - can help shape a Middle East which ensures that American and Israeli national security interests are met.”

“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Ernst has a deep understanding of the security situation in the Middle East and how Iran through its own military and its terrorist proxies endangers not only the US and Israel, but Arab nations as well, many of whom have now normalized relations with Jerusalem and or are quietly moving in that direction,” Zilberman added. 

The genesis of the discussion centered around the DEFEND act, a bipartisan and bicameral piece of legislation that would ensure the US remains fully engaged in bringing forward a regional missile defense architecture to confront Iran. With the CUFI Washington Summit just a few weeks away, the DEFEND Act, and several additional pieces of legislation, are front of mind for us here at the Action Fund, and we hope that engaging with your elected officials is front of mind for you as well.

If we are to ensure that American and Israeli national security interests are protected, we must sit down face-to-face with our leaders to let them know where their constituents stand on these vital issues. If you haven’t already signed up to join us in Washington, there’s still (a little) time; just visit to register.

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