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The Abraham Accords

Arab States Opening Up to Peace with Israel

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11 Nov 2020
The Abraham Accords

Just like the Oslo Accords three decades ago, the news of a peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) caught everyone by surprise. The region’s attention quickly pivoted from the massive blast in Beirut’s port to Israel’s sudden opening of relations with a Gulf Arab state and its implications for the Middle East and beyond. Even the rancorous “black flag” protests to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instantly lost some steam.

Many hailed the announced deal as a welcome return to the “peace for peace” formula preferred by the Israeli Right, in that Israel was not being asked to concede anything to the UAE in exchange for normalizing relations. Others cautioned there indeed might be a quid quo pro, as reports surfaced that Israel had agreed to either forego annexation or acquiesce to the United States selling the latest F-35 stealth aircraft to the UAE.

No doubt, the so-called “Abraham Accords” is a major coup. The Emirates now have become the third Arab state to break from the pack and open formal ties with Israel. Like Egypt and Jordan before them, the UAE rulers decided not to let the future of their nation and the region be held hostage to the unyielding Palestinian nationalist cause. Given the current climate, several other Sunni Arab states could soon fall in line to forge peace agreements with Israel.

But Why has the UAE Gone First?

To answer that, one only needs to look at a map. The UAE is located a mere 22 miles across the water from Iran and thus feels especially vulnerable to Tehran’s regional and nuclear ambitions. In light of this threat, they put in a request with the Pentagon six years ago to acquire the new F-35s and making peace with Israel significantly raises the odds of that being approved. Israel likely will not be able to block the sale, but they could expect to be compensated with other advanced American military hardware and technology to help maintain its qualitative edge over any potential adversaries in the region.

Secondly, the UAE’s rulers are forward-looking and want to diversify their national economy away from oil dependency and into hi-tech, which makes Israel a natural partner for them.

Thirdly, the Emirates have touted Dubai and Abu Dhabi as opulent hubs connecting East and West in the emerging global economy, and continuing to irrationally hate Israel does not mesh well with the futurist image it is trying to project.

Finally, the native citizens of the UAE comprise only 11 percent of the total population in their own country. The oil-rich nation has imported workers from over 200 countries, including large contingents from India and the Philippines, many of whom practice Christianity, Hinduism, and other religions. So, unlike most Arab/Muslim states, the Emiratis have had to become very tolerant of other faiths. Thus, there are many churches and even several synagogues to serve the growing Jewish community in the UAE.

In fact, last year the UAE welcomed the pope to Abu Dhabi, where he performed a large public mass for tens of thousands of local Catholic workers. Styling 2019 as the “Year of Tolerance,” the emirs also approved plans for the Abrahamic Family House, a uniquely grand interfaith complex that will contain a mosque, church, and synagogue all living in harmony. Thus, they appear to be ecumenically minded, especially in promoting respect between the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Also, there seems to be an emerging stream of Muslim Zionists in the Arabian Gulf—those who recognize certain passages in the Koran that affirm that the land of Israel was promised by Allah to the Jews.

Globalization? Ecumenicism? Muslim Zionism? Some of this may give Christians pause. But the potential benefits of the deal for Israel are too good to ignore.

For starters, Israeli hi-tech companies can now attract investments from wealthy Arab oil sheikhs and the sovereign wealth fund of the UAE, estimated to be worth over $1 trillion dollars. And Israelis who can afford it now will be able to shop and dine in the luxurious malls and hotel complexes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

In addition, there were instant rumblings of diplomatic openings for Israel with several other Sunni Arab states. Bahrain was viewed as a prime candidate and soon enough it joined the UAE for a historic peace signing ceremony with Israel in Washington. Yet the small island kingdom has a delicate internal political equilibrium, which could be tested in the months ahead. The ruling Sunni Arabs are a minority in their own country, facing bouts of unrest from a Shi’ite majority prone to Iranian influence. The royal family is hoping the peace deal with Israel does not stir trouble at home.
The Sudanese government has shown tremendous courage and has announced plans to normalize relations with Israel.

Finally, the Abraham Accords also could have a very positive knock-on effect for Israel throughout the rest of the world, as many nations will
begin to question why they must boycott and remain hostile toward Israel if so many Arab countries are befriending the Jewish state.

It is already clear that US President Donald Trump and his foreign policy team have pulled off a real success for Israel and other peace-loving nations. Reviled by so many at home and abroad, Trump deserves credit for the sort of peace breakthrough that other recent US presidents lacked the vision, energy, and ability to attain. This also makes Trump’s reelection in November even more critical now for Israel and its emerging Arab peace partners.

Only President Trump can continue the momentum of this breakthrough and spread it to other Arab capitals because the Sunni Arab bloc has come to trust him when it comes to confronting Iran. His “maximum pressure” policy has proven that Trump is serious about challenging the militant clerical regime in Tehran over its renegade quest for nuclear weapons and its export of terror, armaments, and chaos throughout the region.

That is a huge departure from the policies of appeasement toward Iran adopted by the previous Obama administration, which included Vice President Joe Biden. Under Obama-Biden, the Sunni Arab states felt abandoned. Now with Trump, they have a sense of reassurance, even to the point of coming out openly about their warming relations with Israel.

A Trump reelection could have many other positive impacts for Israel. For some reason, Trump has not had the international coattails one would expect since he is admired by many national leaders abroad. Yet some nations have cautiously held back on following his lead in moving their embassies to Jerusalem or recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan. This is largely due to the widespread animosity toward him among the media and elites, as well as concerns he may only be a one-term president. Yet if he wins a second term, we could expect many other nations to finally give Jerusalem the respect it deserves and place their embassies in the city. They also may join Trump in recognizing the Golan as Israeli territory and even change their stance on the legality of the settlements in Judea/Samaria, as Trump did. Time will tell!

—David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the ICEJ

 

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