One year after the Abraham Accords, the UAE and Israel are eyeing a trillion-dollar prize.
On Wednesday, the United Arab Emirates celebrated a year since normalizing relations with Israel, a decision that enraged Palestinians but that leaders hope would result in a trillion dollars in commercial exchanges.
The UAE and Gulf neighbor Bahrain formally recognized Israel on September 15, 2020 in Washington, in front of then-US President Donald Trump, triggering Palestinian claims of a “stab in the back.”
The unexpected move, which came as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords, defied decades of Arab consensus that barred formal connections as long as the Palestinian question remained unresolved.
However, it signaled a regional thaw, with Morocco and Sudan following suit soon after, and regional power Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil producer, allowing some overflights from Israel.
The UAE and Israel have reaped the economic benefits swiftly, having negotiated a number of agreements spanning from tourism to aviation and financial services.
In July, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid paid a historic visit to the UAE, where he created an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai, as well as a UAE embassy in Tel Aviv.
“We have a tale to tell after a year of the Abraham Accords,” UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri said during a panel discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council, a US research tank, on Monday.
“We exchanged ambassadors and signed over 60 memorandums of understanding” (memorandums of understanding). We have bilateral trade worth 600-700 million dollars going on, and financing worth billions of dollars have been disclosed.
“Over the next decade, we want to generate over a trillion dollars in economic activity.”
More benefits will follow if environmentalists oppose to a huge deal to send Emirati oil to Europe via an Israeli pipeline, fearing damage to the Red Sea’s distinctive coral reefs.
Beyond economics, the reconciliation was pushed by shared concerns about Iran, with regional rivalry even prompting Riyadh to quietly build ties with the Jewish state in recent years.
In both the UAE and Bahrain, online criticism of Israel is common, but outright disagreement over the normalisation is uncommon, most likely to avoid angering authorities.
Even after Israeli air attacks leveled structures during an 11-day confrontation with Hamas in May, causing anger, the friendship went on unabated.
In an interview with AFP, Ilan Sztulman Starosta, chief of the Israeli embassy in Dubai, said, “Everything in the Arab world was a little fascinated with what was occurring in Gaza and with the photographs coming out.”
“However, they remained unchanged. Brief News from Washington Newsday.