Will the Abraham Accords survive better than Israel's previous attempts at peace with neighbors?
A year ago yesterday, according to the solar Gregorian civic calendar (Jewish and Arab calendars are lunar and somewhat different), on August 13, 2020, representatives of Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a joint statement of intent, establishing full diplomatic relations between the two nations. One of the many outstanding accomplishments of the Donald J. Trump (R) administration, this document of intent was formalized a month later at a White House signing ceremony, with Bahrain as an additional signatory, as the Abraham Accords.
Named after Avraham (Abraham), the father of half-brothers Yitzhak (Isaac) and Ishmael from whom the Jews and Arabs respectively claim ancestry, the Abraham Accords declare:
We, the undersigned, recognize the importance of 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.
We encourage efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace among the three Abrahamic religions and all humanity.
We believe that the best way to address challenges is through cooperation and dialogue and that developing friendly relations among States advances the interests of lasting peace in the Middle East and around the world.
We seek tolerance and respect for every person in order to make this world a place where all can enjoy a life of dignity and hope, no matter their race, faith or ethnicity.
We support science, art, medicine, and commerce to inspire humankind, maximize human potential and bring nations closer together.
We seek to end radicalization and conflict to provide all children a better future.
We pursue a vision of peace, security, and prosperity in the Middle East and around the world.
In this spirit, we warmly welcome and are encouraged by the progress already made in establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and its neighbors in the region under the principles of the Abraham Accords. We are encouraged by the ongoing efforts to consolidate and expand such friendly relations based on shared interests and a shared commitment to a better future.
Nice words. Admirable goals. But as they enter the second year, have these words been translated into reality; have any of these goals been met?
Despite some setbacks and the expected unexpecteds — e.g., the Wuhan coronavirus with its attendant problems, Hamas's bombardment of Israel, and Israel's active response — diplomatic relations have been established, ambassadors exchanged. And there have been more positive developments. Fulfilling the signers' hopes of "[w]e support science, art, medicine, and commerce to inspire humankind," contacts in these fields from all involved are being established with plans for further expansion. At Israel21c, Abigail Klein Leichman elaborates on some of the progress in a very busy and productive year for all involved.
Every day brought another "first" between Israel and the UAE.
In October, Etihad Airlines launched a Hebrew-language website to help Israeli travelers book reservations. Thousands of Israeli tourists flooded the UAE until Covid-19 put a temporary stop to that. ...
Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics reported that between September 2020 and June 2021, Israel exported $197 million worth of goods to the UAE and imported $372 million worth of goods from the UAE.
Groups formed quickly to foster connections. Among them are the Abu Dhabi-Israel Business Hub, UAE-Israel Business Council, Israeli-Emirati Forum, UAE-IL Tech Zone, Gulf-Israel Women's Forum, Gulf-Israel Green Ventures and UAE Israel Innovation Office. ...
One of the most remarkable results of the Abraham Accords was the March announcement of a $10 billion UAE investment fund earmarked for the Israeli energy, manufacturing, water, space, health-tech and agri-tech sectors.
There are also the beginnings of academic cooperation with students and faculty exchanges, health care and medical research cooperation, and medical researcher exchanges, plus numerous planned joint business cooperation and exchanges. Although these Arab nations have given verbal support and sometimes a bit more to the so-called Palestinian cause, they do not share a border with Israel, so they have maintained low-key, discreet relations with Israel over the years. Therefore, the future of the Abraham Accords seems more solid than other agreements Israel has signed with its Arab neighbors in the past. For instance, the Camp David Accords between Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egypt's President Anwar Sadat, negotiated with the help of President Jimmy Carter (D) 43 years ago, did end the formal state of war between the two nations, which border each other, but the peace is icy cold — admittedly better than a hot deadly war — with minimal diplomatic exchanges but no cultural or business contact. The Oslo Accords, signed between Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO's Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Arafat, with the help of President Bill Clinton (D) 28 years ago, is now remembered for their meaningless handshake, as Arafat, Abbas, and those they represented never had any intention of fulfilling it. And they didn't.
While problems remain, while there have been disagreements with still more to surely come, there are some solid reasons to be more optimistic about the Abraham Accords. Some. For those who care about peace, let's hope. And then work to support them.
Image via Pixy.
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