This Wednesday, President Donald Trump was nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work brokering the Abraham Accord, the recent peace deal signed by Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a Norwegian Parliament member and the man who nominated Trump, stated: “I think he has done more trying to create peace between nations than most other Peace Prize nominees.”
Tybring-Gjedde is right. The Abraham Accord is monumental because the UAE is the first Persian Gulf state to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, and only the third-ever Arab country to do so, after Egypt (in 1979) and Jordan (in 1994).
Although the UAE never directly went to war with Israel, relations have been sometimes rocky. As soon as the UAE won independence from Britain in 1971, the new country’s first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, did not waste time before calling on every Arab nation to bear “its responsibilities in confronting the Israeli enemy.”
Despite the heated rhetoric, however, cooperation has slowly been improving between Israel and the UAE. For decades, the two nations have had modest business relations and the chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has established relations with his UAE counterpart.
More recently, cooperation has extended to fighting the coronavirus as well. Earlier this June, Israel allowed an Emirati plane carrying medical supplies for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to land in its territory. A few days later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Israeli and Emirati health ministries will share in research and development of medical projects aimed to combat COVID-19.
The Abraham Accord also opens the door for Israel and the UAE to establish deeper cultural, economic, and military ties. Indeed, we are already seeing the fruits of this diplomatic triumph. This September 1, a delegation of top Israeli and American officials visited Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, to discuss further collaboration between the two nations. The delegation agreed to create “a joint committee to establish cooperation on various fronts — from financial services and joint investments to combating terror financing and money laundering.”
Other economic benefits would include a plentiful supply of Emirati oil for Israel, Emirati students attending Israeli universities, UAE funding for Israeli business ventures, Israeli tourism in the UAE, and an opportunity for Gulf businesses to expand in Israeli markets.
The peace agreement will also improve military ties between the two nations. The accord could open the gate to further peace deals with other Gulf states, and former Supreme Commander of NATO James Stavridis believes the ensuing coalition “could create advanced early warning systems against Iranian missiles; a connected command and control network for missile defense; naval operations in the Red Sea, northern Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf; shared military technology; and a regular exchange of intelligence.”
This is why Israel and the United States cannot afford to rest on their laurels but must maintain the momentum generated by the accord to pursue a new diplomatic offensive in the region so more Gulf states will recognize Israel. Bahrain and Oman have both already publicly embraced the Accord, and the Omani foreign ministry has called the agreement “historic.” Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the UAE, did not fully support the deal, but still “cautiously welcomed” the accord and stated it “could be viewed as positive.” In a further conciliatory step, it has opened its airspace to Israeli planes.
The accord’s diplomatic benefits are not just limited to the Middle East: last week, Serbia agreed to move its embassy to Jerusalem, while Kosovo announced it will formally recognize Israel. This is a major diplomatic triumph since it marks the first two European nations to move their embassies to Jerusalem, as well as the first Muslim-majority nation (Kosovo) to do so.
Of course, leftist media outlets have pounced to denounce the deal. The Financial Times called the accord a “setback for wider peace,” The New York Times announced that the “Israel-U.A.E. Deal Swaps One Nightmare for Another,” and NPR warned that the “Palestinians feel betrayed” by the deal.
What many critics worry about is that the peace deal seemingly abandons the Palestinians, partly because the accord doesn’t contain a final settlement for a two-state solution and a sovereign Palestinian State. But an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal cannot be built in a day. Israel and the United States are wise to take an incremental approach and make peace with whatever surrounding nations are ready and willing to do so, even if a final peace deal with the Palestinians is yet to come.
What the New York Times and co. also ignore or downplay is that, as part of the accord, Netanyahu has agreed to halt all proposed annexations in the West Bank. While it’s true that the Israeli prime minister said annexation plans are “still on the table,” he likely only made this statement to appease more hardline supporters among his voter base.
Realistically speaking, any future annexations would destroy the nascent peace with the UAE, dash momentum for peace agreements with other Arab states, and embarrass President Trump, who has won a great diplomatic victory. But perhaps the strongest guarantee that the peace deal will hold is the increasing Iranian threat.
Credit for this peace deal should also go to former President Barack Obama, who consistently empowered Iran, legitimized the regime’s nuclear ambitions, and gave it tens of billions of dollars. He created such a monster that all its neighbors — including Israel and the Arab states — feel compelled to band together. Obama has managed to accomplish what hundreds of diplomats working for decades could not manage to do. Maybe he deserves that Nobel Peace Prize after all.
It is in the national interests of Israel and the Gulf States to improve relations and military cooperation to ensure increased deterrence against Iran. As long as the Iranian threat holds, it is unlikely Netanyahu would do anything to seriously infuriate his new Arab partners or insult his most significant ally, the United States.
For all these reasons, the Abraham Accord marks a significant step towards a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, a reason for hope for Israel and its neighbors, and one of the greatest foreign policy achievements for the Trump administration. Ultimately, it is most fitting that the accord is named after Abraham, the common patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
As Imam Shaikh M. Tawhidi said on Twitter, “Abraham is smiling in his grave. His children are finally coming together.” Just don’t expect the American media to follow suit.