I flew to the United Arab Emirates a few years ago in my role as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. The visit required the highest levels of concealment and coordination. The time in my calendar was scheduled but I purposefully did not include any details. My own assistant didn’t know where I was located. Indeed, until a few months ago, dialogues and visits between Israeli and Arab officials were shrouded in complete secrecy. This was the norm during my five-year tenure at the UN. Yet, despite these covert conditions, my Arab counterparts and I worked together closely behind the scenes and many such undercover encounters occurred.
Each meeting for me was a step toward our joint future relationship. I worked hard to ensure that our discussions centered on real, honest and substantial issues. Our collective efforts assisted in moving the diplomatic needle and establishing the early stages of the normalization agreements we are witnessing today. After many years of hard work behind the scenes, it is incredible to see the agreements flourishing in the public eye and with the recognition deserving of our special relationship.
The UAE set in motion many firsts with the signing of the Abraham Accords. It was the first Persian Gulf country to normalize ties with Israel. It was also the first country to make peace with Israel since the agreements with Egypt more than 40 years ago, and with Jordan over a quarter-century ago. Since this signing, we see a new era of collaboration for the wider Middle East being ushered in as more countries widen the circle of peace.
The unprecedented and forward-thinking agreements will catapult our countries and the region to greater heights in business, travel, tourism, security, diplomacy and technology. Tourism, for instance, has literally taken to the skies as we launched 14 flights a week from Tel Aviv to the UAE, shortly set to increase to 28. Israel warmly welcomed tourists from the Emirates, and Israelis were equally delighted to visit and get to know the UAE, as we have similarly enjoyed visiting our friends in Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
In the educational sphere, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi signed a memorandum of understanding that will leverage both countries’ expertise, and that aims to share knowledge in the hope of advancing solutions to pressing world challenges. Similarly, there have been many synergies in the areas of agriculture, energy and infrastructure. We have already seen the signing with our peace partners of several additional agreements in finance, investment, telecommunications, health and water. We are certain to see many more in the coming weeks and months.
The signatories of these new agreements share a vision for a peaceful, secure, connected Middle East that heralds new relations and collaborations. With the landmark Abraham Accords we see our positive vision becoming a reality. Despite this welcome news, we must not let ourselves get too comfortable or complacent. Dreams are possible, but so are nightmares.
Iran’s dangerous radical approach is the region’s nightmare. We must work to develop the young peace accords and fulfil our dreams, but we must always stay alert and suppress forces that are threatening that tranquility. We must never allow the antithesis of our dream – the murderous Iranian vision – to become a reality.
President Joe Biden stated in response to the normalization that we must “challenge other nations to keep pace, and work to leverage these growing ties.” This is precisely what Israel intends to do. My hope is that joint ventures between our countries, and indeed between all the current and future partners of the Abraham Accords, will continue to develop and bear fruit. These new relationships are undeniably worthy of celebration. They signal positive enhancements for our countries and for the future peace, prosperity and stability of the region.
The writer served as Israel’s 17th permanent representative to the United Nations, as science and technology minister, and as deputy minister of defense. He is currently chairman of the World Likud.