This week, we will mark an august day in the life of the state of Israel, September 15. For it was on this day two years ago that the Jewish state entered into the landmark Abraham Accords, in which it normalized relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The deal, brokered by the United States, was later joined by two other countries, Morocco and Sudan.
It is hard to overstate the significance of the Abraham Accords. Over a quarter of a century elapsed since Jordan became the second Arab-Muslim nation to establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state (of course, the first was Egypt fifteen years before, in 1979). While Arab states previously refused to enter into open relations with Israel due to the Palestinian question, the threat to peace and security caused by Iran drove the relationship into the open. The Abraham Accords signaled an exit from the paralysis in Israel-Arab relations caused by an inept Palestinian regime that, in the immortal words of legendary Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
As I sat on the South Lawn of the White House watching the historic ceremony unfold on September 15, 2020, I could for the first time realistically picture an Israel entirely integrated into the greater Middle East. And sooner rather than later.
Since then, progress has been both stable and fruitful. Trade between member countries has boomed into a billion-dollar market, with new deals and agreements made nearly every day. These are particularly encouraging signs to other Arab – and also to Muslim – nations seeking to reduce barriers and advance peace by joining a broadened version of the Abraham Accords.
President Biden’s summer visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia, for instance, was accompanied by an announcement that the oil-rich Saudi kingdom would now allow Israeli flights to pass over its airspace and reportedly will allow flights directly to Mecca for Arab Israelis to perform the Haj pilgrimage. Saudi Arabia continues to reinforce its ties to the Western alliance and the anti-Iranian axis in the Middle East. In the West, we need a close connection to Saudi Arabia, both to meet our energy needs while the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues to disrupt the global economy, as well as to further stare down the mullahs in Tehran. The geopolitical configuration shows no sign of changing, especially as the Iranian nuclear program again approaches a dangerous threshold.
The spirit of the Abraham Accords also continues through the renewal of diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey, including the exchange of ambassadors and consuls general. This thawing of tensions will further improve regional stability and allow for greater cooperation on critical security issues.
The Abraham Accords ushered an era of peace and cooperation amongst Israel and her neighbors and is a significant step in Israel’s full integration into the Middle East and into the family of nations. Israel flourishes from the unique partnership of her people – Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. The pursuit of normalization allows that dream to survive and thrive.