Third year of Abraham Accords off to a good start - analysis

The Made for Trade Live event, which showcased Israel-UAE business ties last week, and the UAE National Day celebrations at the UAE Embassy last week illustrate the success of the Accords.

 AFTER SIGNING the Abraham Accords, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain (left) and UAE display their copies as then-US president Donald Trump looks on, at the White House, September 15, 2020. (photo credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS)
AFTER SIGNING the Abraham Accords, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain (left) and UAE display their copies as then-US president Donald Trump looks on, at the White House, September 15, 2020.
(photo credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS)

President Isaac Herzog journeyed to Bahrain on Sunday, after which he will travel to the United Arab Emirates. This follows a presidential visit to the UAE earlier this year, meaning that as we enter 2023, the number of important visits and high-level meetings between Israel and Abraham Accords countries is rising.

The Made for Trade Live event, which showcased Israel-UAE business ties last week, and the UAE National Day celebrations at the UAE Embassy last week illustrate the success of the Accords.

The first year of peace between Israel, Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and Sudan took place amid the ongoing pandemic. In fact, the pandemic provided some of the backdrop for the first flight from the UAE to Israel in May 2020, when a plane landed on a humanitarian mission. A Rafael, Israel Aerospace Industries and Group 42 deal in July 2020 also served as background to the historic Accords. Additionally, Yediot Aharanot published an op-ed by UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba in June 2020.

The first year had its challenges as well. While there were an unprecedented number of flights and visitors from Israel to the UAE, the expectations for rapid economic deals and massive amounts of trade were a bit overinflated.

Year two saw the Accords being cemented in ways it wasn’t the previous year, during the Yair Lapid-Naftali Bennett coalition government. There were many historic firsts and many visits. Israeli companies participated in the Bahrain Air Show, for instance. Defense Minister Benny Gantz went to Bahrain in February 2022, and in September, met with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed during the anniversary of the Accords. Prime Minister Lapid also went to the UAE in June 2021, inaugurating Israel’s embassy there.

FOREIGN MINISTER Yair Lapid helps to affix a mezuzah to a doorpost of the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE, last month. (credit: SHLOMI AMSALEM/GPO/REUTERS)FOREIGN MINISTER Yair Lapid helps to affix a mezuzah to a doorpost of the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE, last month. (credit: SHLOMI AMSALEM/GPO/REUTERS)

Several important events

Other important events have taken place during the last year, such as growing cooperation with Morocco and a high-level visit in November 2021.

The commander of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces visited Israel in September 2022, and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi was in Morocco in July 2022. There were also two meetings of the Negev Summit, in March and June 2022, providing for meetings between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt and the US.

Potentially, it could and should include Jordan. Israel’s warming ties with Turkey – as well as strategic ties with Azerbaijan and India – also played into the success of the peace deals in the last year. Israel, the UAE, India and the US are involved in the I2U2 grouping.

Herzog's entourage 

HERZOG’S VISIT to Bahrain came with a large delegation that included key figures from Israel’s Export Institute, the Manufacturers Association of Israel, the Israel Innovation Authority and others. Other important elements will continue to gel over the next year.

Israel’s work with US Central Command is important, as are issues relating to security at sea. For instance, Central Command was quick to put out a report after the Pacific Zircon was targeted by an Iranian drone last month.

Other symbols of this success could be seen, for example, last week at the National Day celebrations the UAE Embassy hosted in Tel Aviv. The impressive gala included musicians from the UAE and a large number of officials and dignitaries, including UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al-Khaja and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. The themes of prosperity, trade, coexistence and growth of the Abraham Accords were clear in the energy in the room during the UAE event.

There is a lot more to do in the third year of the Accords, including an increased focus on diversifying trade and bringing to fruition collaboration initiatives in green technology or addressing food security.

There are also regional stability and security issues. It was only a year ago that Iran and its Houthi allies in Yemen were preparing for drone attacks directed at the UAE. The US is supposed to supply the UAE and Saudi Arabia with their air defense needs so they can procure the right systems, such as Patriot and THAAD. The Jerusalem Post also reported in September that Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems would sell its Spyder air-defense system to the UAE.

Meanwhile, in late November, the Naval Forces of US Central Command began a three-week unmanned integration event in Bahrain. This is being conducted with the US 5th Fleet and focuses on “employing new platforms in the region for the first time,” according to the US Navy.

These kinds of initiatives are important, as are joint drills between Israel and regional navies and other military services. This includes strategic Israel-Greek ties, Israel’s Elbit Systems developing a flight school in Greece, and Greece using Israel-built IAI Heron drones.

The Abraham Accords’ building blocks, which are growing apace, go hand-in-hand with Israel’s work with Central Command as well as Israeli ties with Greece, Cyprus, other Arab states and countries further afield, such as India and Azerbaijan.