Under the Trump Administration, the Abraham Accords were signed in September 2020 to normalize relations between Israel, initially with the UAE, and later Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. The volume of trade with Arab countries broke the $2.8 billion barrier in 2022, and over 500,000 Israelis have visited the UAE since the start of the Accords.
The accords have increasingly paved the way for normalizing relations with the Arab countries and have economically integrated Israel into the Middle East. The Negev Forum held in Abu Dhabi in January this year aimed at regional integration and connectivity between Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates, with discussions focused on regional security, clean energy, food, and water security, health, tourism, education, and coexistence.
The Abraham Accords and other agreements are proving to be productive for the Middle East’s economy and promoting cultural exchange, helping Israel integrate into the region. Countries like Oman, Jordan, UAE, and Morocco are eager to work with Israel on economic projects and shared interests that will likely boost their economic potential. In addition to normalization, the initiative has opened new avenues for mutual defense, security, and cooperation, primarily among Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE, which share a common perspective on the security threat posed by Iran. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on his official visit to UAE earlier this month, discussed strengthening bilateral relations with Arab countries and also showed his concern for cooperation over the Iran issue.
A regional summit in March 2023 between Arab countries will be held in Abu Dhabi, which will set out how to increase further trade integration and economic interdependence of Israel and other Arab countries. The initiative will not only connect the region and Israel based on trade but is also considered a step towards transforming the relationship between Israel and the rest of the Middle East. Interestingly, the UAE recently announced it would teach about the Holocaust to UAE school children.
Saudi Arabia has not officially formalized any ties with Israel, but it works with the country on multiple forums for regional trade and connectivity. US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has referred to Saudi Arabia as a “critical partner in helping to expand the Abraham Accords.” It is believed that we and other countries, like Egypt, have made efforts to formalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel. However, Saudi Arabia has continued to hold the formal position that it is against normalizing relations with Israel because of the Palestinian question. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal Bin Farhan, stressed, “we won’t be able to reap those benefits unless we address the issue of Palestine.”
The Abraham Accords have released international pressure from Israel on the Palestine issue. Middle Eastern countries are involved in prioritizing their own regional political and economic development over human rights concerns in Palestine. The Accords have not delivered – what some people promised – that improved cooperation between Israel and other Arab countries would lead to a reduction in the Israel-Palestine conflict.