Positive Aspects of Emirates Breakthrough

It’s “early days,” but the surprise “Abraham Accord” announced by Washington has been a stunner. Against all odds, nothing leaked from any of the governments involved: Israel, the United Arab Emirates (Emirates or UAE), or the US. The Emirates-Israel peace agreement is the first one in which a non-contiguous Arab country has reconciled with Israel and which can be characterized as “peace for peace.”

“President Donald Trump said in a surprise announcement Thursday [August 13] that Israel and the United Arab Emirates had agreed to normalize relations and that, as part of the deal, Israel would not annex [sic] parts of the West Bank it currently occupies {sic].

‘Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations,’ Trump said, surrounded by aides in the Oval Office. ‘They will exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin cooperation across the board and on a broad range of areas including tourism, education, healthcare, trade and security.’” (ABCnews.com)

In a joint statement, Trump, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Emirates’ ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that the “historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region.”

There are many similarities between the two countries. The population of Israel is 9 million; the Emirates has about 10% more. The GNP of Israel is about $400 billion; the Emirates’ GNP is about 5% higher. Both are composed of many different “tribes.” The Emirates has seven distinct chiefdoms and Israel’s Jewish population has local roots and immigrants from scores of nations. The majority of Israelis today are Mizrahi (of Middle Eastern ancestry), “cousins” of Israel’s Arab population. Perhaps most significant is the entrepreneurial slant of both states, with swiftly growing, forward-oriented economies.

The great impact this impending agreement promises is the effect on other “moderate” Arab countries which are not at war with Israel. Most important on that list is Saudi Arabia. Because the Emirates expects to reap commercial rewards by partnering with Israel, there is a strong belief that other nearby countries may not want to be left behind. Oman is also a strong candidate to recognize Israel early on.

For the Palestinian Arabs, the impact of the Emirates’ decision is totally negative, according to them. While we thought that President Trump’s earlier pro-Israel initiatives were powerful (recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, recognition of Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights, the acceptance that there are no “1967 borders” which delineate Israel), this agreement cements the new paradigm that, “land for peace” is obsolete and from now on, “peace for peace” is the standard.

Besides the rebuke to the Palestinian Arabs that their “cause” is becoming increasingly irrelevant to Muslims and that time is not on their side, Iran is also taking a direct hit. The Emirates is just one of the Arab states that opposes Iran’s attempts to establish a Caliphate in Arabia under its control. Other anti-Iran states include Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both of whom will certainly take notice of the negative effect on Iran and the benefits of formalizing ties to Israel. 

What are the negatives for Israel? Though it’s early days and nothing has been finalized, I don’t see a major negative. True, Israel agrees to a pause in extending sovereignty to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. But as I have reiterated in my articles, “sovereignty” is simply a matter of replacing Israeli military law with Israeli civilian law for our citizens there. On the ground, there is little impact except for Israelis; the impact on Palestinian Arabs or Arabs in general is minimal. Israel already has “de facto” sovereignty in the area; “de jure” sovereignty can wait a bit longer. No one can usurp Israel from its homeland.

I hope that at the proper time, Israel will quietly switch legal jurisdiction from military to civil in many, if not all, of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. It can be done piecemeal with little fanfare. In fact, it could have happened already except for the sad fact that politicians, in general, cannot keep their mouths shut about even the most delicate undertakings. Their blathering has derailed many initiatives which might have been accomplished without publicity. 

Prior to the surprise announcement, there were already signs of cooperation between Israel and the Emirates. There is an Israeli diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi housed in the renewable energy agency and an informal trade office in Dubai. In May, Etihad Airways flew the first direct commercial flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv. Tellingly, Saudi Arabia permitted Etihad to fly across its territory directly to Israel, a first. 

As the weeks go by, more initiatives between Israel and the Emirates will be announced. Let’s hope so! Already, joint research on COVID is proceeding. The momentum will build. This cooperative initiative could have stupendous, positive implications for Israel and against Iran. At the same time, Palestinian Arabs would be wise to think about their future moves, given the stark reality that their cause is no longer very significant in Middle Eastern politics and can be sidelined. It’s about time!

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.
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