It has been two years since the Abraham Accords were signed.
And it can safely be said that, over these past 24 months, specifically because of the Accords, the Middle East is a drastically different place. A drastically improved region.
There is more on the horizon. The best is yet to come.
What began as a single Abraham Accord has blossomed into Accords. The UAE took a bold and courageous step in becoming the first to sign on the proverbial dotted line with Israel.
It was a historic decision, a historic move, closely followed by Bahrain. A select club was forming.
Then came Morocco, then Sudan. With Egypt and Jordan the club grew bigger, stronger, more influential.
Outliers were those who did not sign Abraham Accords, not those who put pen to paper and — quite literally, put their money where their mouths were, diplomatically speaking, of course.
Half a year ago, in March. a summit was convened in the Negev Desert, located in southern Israel. All, I repeat — members of the Abraham Accords gathered to discuss issues of shared importance. Israel played host to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE — and of course the U.S.
What was once unthinkable, became reality.
And in June, then-prime minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, paid a visit to Dubai. It was the first part of a bilateral arrangement. The second part took place when Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, arrived in Tel Aviv for an official visit to Israel.
The news was reported in the Hebrew/Israeli press. More significantly, the visit was reported in the official UAE state news agency (WAM) media.
With no caveats, no hidden agenda, UAE leadership is now touting their relationship with Israel. They are informing and educating their country about their warm relations with the Jewish State.
During Sheik bin Zayed’s first official visit to Jerusalem the Israelis welcomed him with pomp. At least, as much pomp as tiny Israel can muster. Quite frankly, compared to the wealth of the UAE, Israel’s best efforts probably paled when compared to even everyday life for a UAE sheikh, but the effort and sentiment were well placed.
President Isaac Herzog and first lady Michal Herzog hosted an official luncheon at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem in honor of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness. The residence is very small, the size of a modest small home with only 3 bedrooms, but the message that emanated from inside those walls was gargantuan.
Israeli President Herzog spoke of how "the world looks at the Abraham Accords with awe and respect and says there’s a new Middle East in many ways, being created and moving forward.”
Sheik Zayed responded saying, “This is historic, but I think in many ways this is a relationship which very few thought that in two years it would be as successful.”
The next day the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates visited Yad Vashem, the National Holocaust Remembrance Museum in Jerusalem. Commemorating this unique moment in Islamic/Jewish history, the minister penned a message in the museum’s visitor’s log.
He wrote of the importance of remembering the lessons taught by history and the great responsibility of tolerance. He wrote that leaders must take the courageous step of bridge building for real peace and for posterity.
And in Jerusalem, he met with Israel’s current prime minister, Yair Lapid. Think about it. They met in Jerusalem. He was hosted and dined and overnighted in Jerusalem. He was an Arab leader meeting Israeli leaders in their capital, in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the disputed city.
These meetings and visits alone are a de-facto recognition of something many countries still question. Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel.
During their visit, Lapid spoke about the significance of the relationship between Israel and the UAE, a relationship made possible, actually forged, because of the Abraham Accords.
He said: "This is the historic visit of a regional leader who will promote the regional architecture that we have been building over the past year in the middle east, a visit of a close and dear friend, with which I can talk to about everything. My friend, we are changing the middle east together. We are moving it from war to peace. From terror to economic cooperation."
Lapid was not speaking about hypotheticals. There has been remarkable growth in trade between the two countries. Thus far, this year, they have conducted $1.4 billion in trade.
Of course, there have also been a few hiccups along the way. The UAE was upset about a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. Nothing serious. They urged Israel to show restraint and to “provide full protection” of holy sites.
But the UAE did call Israel’s actions “provocative violations” that caused the instability.
And the fast-growing Jewish community in Dubai is in need of improved physical infrastructure but the government, and Muslim authorities have stopped the Jewish building. It is a bone of contention — but it should not prove insurmountable.
If the UAE wants Israel as a partner, they need to know that Jews need synagogues and community centers and the ability to lead public lives as Jews in the Islamic United Arab Emirates.
The bottom line, as is made clear by the Abraham Accords, is that there is much more that binds Israel and her co-signers than separates them. Leading that list is economics, technology, security and, most importantly, defending against and checking Iran.
As Humphrey Bogart said in the last line in Casablanca. “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
To that, I say “Amen.”
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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