U.S. Rep. Torres brings ‘good’ Israeli peace news to SAR Academy

Special envoy law for Abraham Accords part of defense act


In a visit to SAR Academy on Dec. 22, U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres announced an important next step in carrying out the Abraham Accords signed by Israel and several Arab nations three years ago.

Torres co-sponsored the Special Envoy for the Abraham Accords Act, which was passed by Congress on Dec. 14 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2024 and signed by President Biden eight days later.

The accords are a series of peace agreements brokered under President Trump in 2020 between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. The four countries join Egypt and Jordan in pledging peace with Israel.

“Riverdale is home to a vibrant Jewish community that has a deeply personal stake in Israel-Arab relations,” Torres said, acknowledging that amid the Israel-Hamas war, a peace agreement involving Israel and Arab nations is good news.

“I’m optimistic about the future of peace,” Torres added. “Israel has a long history of making peace with Arab countries” like Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Morocco. “The Abraham Accords is historic, because it represents a shift from war to peace. The future of the Middle East is neither pro-Israel nor pro-Arab. The future of the Middle East is both pro-Israel and pro-Arab.”

The special envoy would represent the U.S. government with regional ambassadors, nongovernmental organizations, and others to strengthen relationships and the foundation the accords have created. The creation of the position is intended to help further the spirit of the agreements in “maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom,” according to the wording of the accords themselves.

The accords are named for the Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — and their joint belief in Abraham as a spiritual patriarch.

“One of the highest priorities of Congress is to pass security assistance measures so that Israel has the ability to defend itself,” Torres said.

He cited the Iron Dome — an air defense system designed to protect Israel from enemy rocket fire — as an example of a crucial security measure for the Jewish state. It prevents 90 percent of rockets from hitting their intended target, according to the congressman.

Aviv Ezra, acting consul general of Israel in New York, praised Torres’ commitment to Israel.

“Your legislation — specifically with the envoy of the Abraham Accords — sends the message that peace is the answer,” Ezra said. “And as you said, peace is not just for the Arab world.”

It did not go unnoticed that Torres chose SAR Academy as the location for the update. 

“What you chose to do today is to share good news, to share hope, to share the word ‘yes,’” the school’s principal, Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, told Torres. “That’s what our children are hearing. Thank you for choosing to make this announcement here.”

It was important to continue building on the Abraham Accords even now, Torres said, with that part of the world involved conflict.

“Keep in mind that there was nothing coincidental about the timing of Oct. 7,” Torres said. “Israel was on the brink of making peace with Saudi Arabia, and Hamas carried out the attacks of Oct. 7 in a sinister attempt to derail Israel-Arab peace.”

The congressman explained to one student that he draws a distinction between the government of a nation and its people.

“If governments are committing acts of terror, we have to hold those governments accountable,” Torres said. “The Abraham Accords is about bringing together governments that want peace and prosperity.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has described the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act as “a critical point in our nation’s history.”

“It’s today’s investments in our defense that will ensure the success of our war fighters on the battlefield of the future,” Rogers said in a statement. “Providing for our national defense is the most consequential responsibility that the U.S. Constitution granted Congress. The National Defense Authorization Act remains a vital part of fulfilling that commitment to our service members, and our nation.”

Seeing the students gathered before him, Torres had one final thought to share.

“Yours is the generation that’s going to realize the Abrahamic dream,” he said, “and build on the foundation of the Abraham Accords.”

Ritchie Torres, SAR Academy, Rabbi Benyamin Krauss, Aviv Ezra, Israel, Arab, National Defense Authorization Act, special envoy, Abraham Accords