It is the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords, a case of successful multidimensional cooperation in the Middle East

Israel and the United Arab Emirates celebrate two years of peace together

AFP/ SAUL LOEB - Signing of the Abrahamic Accords, in which the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognise Israel, at the White House in Washington

The biggest geopolitical reconfiguration of the Middle East this decade turns two years old on 15 September. To mark the occasion, Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed travelled to Jerusalem to meet his Israeli counterparts and commemorate the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords.

"Very few people thought that, in two years, I would be so successful," the Emirati minister told the cameras at the end of his meeting with Israeli head of state Isaac Herzog at the presidential residence. But the truth is that the Abraham Accords have powerfully enhanced the UAE's position as a medium-sized power and a major regional player in the Gulf.

Since the UAE took the bold step of breaking out of the stalemate of the 2002 Saudi Arabian-brokered Arab Peace Initiative, a string of agreements, accords and memoranda have been signed with Israel.  Not only with the Emirates, but also with Morocco, which joined the agreements a short time later.

AFP/ SAUL LOEB - Benjamin Netanyahu, sostiene el documento tras participar en la firma de los Acuerdos de Abraham

The rapprochement between the UAE and Israel is primarily the result of a strategic vision of success, as well as clear commercial and economic objectives. Since the United States' interests progressively shifted in the direction of Asia, a phenomenon that Trump accelerated during his time in the White House, Middle Eastern actors understood that the reconfiguration of their space was a necessary step to curb Iran.

From Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi it was understood that, without the US, the best replacement would be regional cooperation. Since the 1990s, the United States has taken on the role of "gendarme" in the region, so it is understandable that the first urgency of the Emirates and the State of Israel was security.

In this respect, Abu Dhabi is the best advocate for achieving its military armament plans. Analysts at the Elcano Royal Institute point out that, were it not for the mediation of the Israeli lobby in the US Congress, it would have been very difficult for the UAE to enter into military training programmes such as the state-of-the-art F-35 fighter. The Abraham Accords opened a window of procurement opportunities that the UAE needs for its preventive defence.

REUTERS/TOM BRENNER - Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, Abdullatif Al Zayani y Abdullah bin Zayed, saludan desde el balcón de la Casa Blanca tras la ceremonia de firma de los Acuerdos de Abraham

On the other hand, Israel was able to build 100 per cent diplomatic relations with the Arab states, one of its priorities since its inception as a state and which before Abraham had only been achieved with Egypt and Jordan. Since its establishment in 1948, it has been crucial for Israel that its neighbours recognise its sovereignty and existence. With the Abraham Accords, its goal is closer than ever.

On the other hand, it manages to organise military manoeuvres and to have allies that share a border with its great regional enemy, Iran. Only 200 km from the Iranian coast, Israel has the possibility of establishing logistical bases, if the Emirates ever allows it to do so. Since 2020, Israel has also carved out a niche for itself in monitoring the Persian Gulf Sea, with increasing investment and new technology. Since 2021 it has been involved in a maritime drone programme with the United States, which has its 5th Fleet based in the small peninsula of Bahrain.

AFP/ JACK GUEZ - Un avión Boeing 777-300ER de Emirates recibe un saludo de agua de bienvenida al aterrizar en el aeropuerto israelí Ben Gurion. Es el primer vuelo de pasajeros de la aerolínea desde los Emiratos Árabes Unidos a Israel

Boosting trade and the economy is another major benefit of the Abraham Accords. It is pertinent to recall the image of the first Emirates airline flight landing at David Ben Gurion Airport, under a water salute propelled by the runway operators. Since that first flight, Israeli officials speak of up to 1 million visitors from the United Arab Emirates.
Trade between the two states reached USD 1.2 billion in 2021, an amount that was already far exceeded in the first half of 2022 alone. According to sources at the Elcano Royal Institute, in the next five years, the volume of transactions will exceed 10 billion dollars thanks to the free trade agreement signed by both administrations at the end of May 2022.

AFP PHOTO / HO / WAM - Firma de un acuerdo de libre comercio entre Israel y los EAU

The UAE's own Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Thani Al Zeyoudi, writes a column in the Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post praising the Abraham Accords for the trade bonanza they bring. "We have seen exponential growth in trade, research and development, academic partnerships and intergovernmental cooperation in areas ranging from taxation to tourism and aviation," says Al Zeyoudi in his column, published on the morning of the anniversary of the signing.  Al Zeyoudi is one of the architects of the same free trade agreement, the UAE-Israel Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which eliminates 96% of tariffs on tourism, transport, agro-tech and other trade.
From the regional point of view, the Abraham Agreements have also been a clear step towards stability, as analyses agree. Sources quoted by the Emirati media outlet Al-ain argue that, were it not for the Abraham Accords, Israel would have continued its policy of annexing West Bank territory.

REUTERS/RONRN ZVULUN - Las banderas de Bahrein, Emiratos Árabes Unidos, Israel y Estados Unidos se proyectan en los muros de la ciudad vieja de Jerusalén

This stability was staged in mid-2022 with the holding of the first Negev Summit, which was attended by the signatories of the Abraham Accords. This regional calm also requires energy security. Israel is taking up this challenge with a new series of regional cooperation projects in which the Emirates is participating thanks to its innovative techniques in the renewable energy sector. Stability was also accompanied by wealth sharing. Trade between Israel and Egypt grew by 41% and by as much as 54% with Egypt.

The deepening of relations between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco was also noteworthy. Following Morocco's accession to the Abraham Accords, military and economic cooperation has flourished between the two countries. Since the health conditions following the COVID pandemic made it possible, Israeli ministers have visited Rabat in succession. From Orna Barbivay, Minister of Economy, to Benny Gantz, Minister of Defence, and Ayelet Shaked, who holds the Interior portfolio. In all, Israeli-Moroccan trade rose to $117 million in 2021, with Morocco benefiting from strong Israeli investment in the textile and automobile sectors. The two countries' authorities hope to see the value of their trade increase to $500 million a year.

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.