Abraham Accords, One Year Later: The Inside Story

August 11, 2021

I was in the Oval Office on August 13 when we announced it,” recalls former US ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman. “Today we are all pretty happy, and we are ahead of schedule in terms of how this has developed.”

A year has passed since the announcement that then-US president Donald J. Trump, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, had spoken and agreed to full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Within weeks the Kingdom of Bahrain had also agreed to normalize relationson September 12.

“The signing of the Abraham Accords will no doubt be one of the biggest Middle East milestones in our lifetime, and as we celebrate its first anniversary, it is an opportunity to reflect on this auspicious time for the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the region more broadly,” recalls Houda Nonoo, Bahrain’s former ambassador to the US and, at the time, the first and only Jewish ambassador from an Arab country to the US.

By October Sudan had agreed to normalize ties, and in December Morocco was talking rapprochement with Israel.

I recently drove by the liaison office of the Kingdom of Morocco in Tel Aviv. It has a pretty gate, in the style of North African designs. It is now part of the changing landscape of Israel and its relations with countries in the Middle East.

The Abraham Accords were signed on September 15 at the South Lawn of the White House. At the time some critics pilloried the agreements, cast doubt on their substance and later called them an “afterthought.”

A year after the agreements gives us some time to look back at how they came to be and gauge whether they will stand the test of time.

Friedman says, in a conversation with me, that “from my own perspective, I felt there would be a stress point, something that will stress the relationship in the short term.”

That test came with the conflict in Gaza in May. The Accords survived and are flourishing, according to those who helped craft them and according to experts, academics, cultural, religious and political figures from the US to Israel and the Gulf.

In the course of writing this article I reached out to a large number of people, most of whom agreed to speak on the record and provide exclusive details to the Magazine.

“The Abraham Accords have brought about a new chapter in Israel’s relations with the countries in our region. It is the beginning of an era of peace, not only in the form of strategic alliances between states, but, rather, peace between nations, peace on the level of people to people,” says Defense Minister Benny Gantz in a statement.

“On the security front, an alliance of moderate countries is being formed – countries that want to see this region develop and prosper, and that can build a united front in the face of the aggressive and extremist players in the area.

“The Abraham Accords have also opened a ‘window of opportunity’ to advance political steps vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Such steps are crucial for the continuity of the State of Israel as a secure, Jewish and democratic state.”

A LOOK back at the origins of the Accords finds that many paths led to the agreement in the summer of 2020. Some of these processes were long-term, and they occurred on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, a former member of the United Arab Emirates Federal National Council and founder of the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, the Strategists Center and AlMansoori Consultancy, has been involved in peace work for many years. He speaks about the need to solve problems in civilized and peaceful ways.

Today his museum is one of the unique new sites in the UAE that showcases this tolerance and has hosted many Jewish visitors.

“I was surprised by the announcement,” he recalls. “I knew we had a diplomatic relationship that was evolving simultaneously with developing mutual interests, growing on a wise incremental pace,” he says.

The UAE was also positioning itself as a center of tolerance and dialogue, hosting the pope and 700 religious figures at a Conference on Human Fraternity in February 2019.

Ghanem Nuseibeh, who comes from a prominent Muslim family in Jerusalem, has been working toward peace quietly through meetings for years. Back in the early 2000s he hosted a meeting in London of intellectuals from the Gulf and Israel, including former officials. “The focus was on how to deal with common challenges facing the region, and that is why the relations were built on common interests and realizing a common future.”

In New York, Rabbi Elie Abadie recalls hosting UAE officials for 10 years at his New York synagogue. A year later he is the senior rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates and recalls the joy and happiness when the news was announced.

Nir Boms, a research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University and a driver of various coexistence projects, says that in the old days people would go to Prague or Cyprus for these kinds of meetings between people from the Gulf and Israel. Now it can be done openly, and people from third countries, such as Pakistan, are attending conferences where Israelis are present and seeing a brave new world being created.

Months before the agreements were announced, the UAE was already making plans for an Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, a complex that would include a mosque, church and synagogue. The synagogue in the UAE was an example of how things were changing in the region. Kosher catering was already beginning in May of 2020, as articles covered the initiative of Elli Kriel and the idea of “kosherati” food, a blend of kosher food and Emirati cuisine.

These were the “hopes and signs” that Mansoori and others remember were pointing the way to a more harmonious and peaceful region. The tone of media and religious sermons was also changing. If in the past there was any intolerance coming from voices in the UAE, the message by 2020 was that those voices would be sidelined. Winds of change were in the air.

Back in Washington, on October 8, 2020, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies hosted Yousef Al Otaiba, ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, who spoke with Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of FDD, about the “new normal” of UAE-Israel peace. The two men, who played key roles in setting the stage for the agreements, talked about how the accords specifically commit the two countries to cooperation in economic, scientific, and social fields, a much warmer beginning of ties than the peace Israel had agreed to with Egypt and then Jordan between 1979 and 1994.

Otaiba said in the discussion with Dubowitz “that you are one of the first people to plant this idea in our head. You planted that seed early on. I don’t know how seriously it was, as part of the considerations and the debates and the negotiations that we had, but you were one of the first people to raise the idea of normalization with Israel. And to be honest, it’s something we’ve always discussed. It’s something that we’re not hiding from. We’ve been having debates inside the UAE about what normalization with Israel would look like and when would it happen, and it was just an ongoing discussion.”

Otaiba said that the past years had seen Israeli athletes hosted in the UAE, and Israel invited to have a pavilion at Expo 2020, an event that was delayed due to the pandemic.

From its first days, the Trump administration put a priority on advancing peace between Israel and states in the region.

Robert S. Greenway, who is now at the Hudson Institute and executive director of the Abraham Accords Peace Institute, recalls that the administration focused on several consistent goals in the Middle East. This would include maximum pressure on Iran and the defeat of ISIS.

Greenway served in several positions on the National Security Council, focusing on Iran, and then a portfolio that included Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, before rising to assistant to the president and at the same time US National Security Council senior director on Middle East and North Africa Affairs.

Greenway would be on the first direct El Al flight 971 to the UAE on August 31, 2020, along with other key players such as US national security advisor Robert O’Brien, senior advisor to the president Jared Kushner, US special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz, US special representative for Iran Brian Hook, US International Development Finance Corporation CEO Adam Boehler and other senior officials.

When he looks back now, he describes the normalization deal as coming out of the administration’s desire to construct an enduring regional security architecture. This idea, sometimes called an “Arab NATO,” began to be discussed more seriously in 2018 and had its roots in Trump’s Saudi Arabia trip in May 2017.

The idea was that normalization with Israel would converge with this new Arab security framework involving key partners of the US, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Egypt.

It didn’t come about suddenly, says Greenway. The White House had pushed for a meeting in Warsaw in February 2019 which would be billed as addressing Middle East security but in fact was directed at confronting Iran. Netanyahu tweeted: “what is important about this meeting, and it is not in secret ... is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of combating Iran.”

Trust had to be built between the countries. Contours of the agreement with the UAE were formed in November 2019, and Morocco was coming on board already 18 months before it publicly announced the rapprochement.

The Trump administration was also pushing economic prosperity as underpinning the peace. In June 2019 the “Peace to Prosperity” economic plan, an aspect of the White House peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, was rolled out in Bahrain.

At each instance the Palestinians were nonplussed, as were countries such as Iran, Turkey and Qatar, part of a wider regional schism between Turkey and Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt on the other.

Other wheels were in motion at this time as well. The US had announced it would move its embassy to Jerusalem in December 2017, and the move, in May 2018, came as massive protests in Gaza assaulted Israel’s security fence, leaving dozens dead. The US also said it would leave the Iran deal in May 2018, illustrating some of the convergence between the Iran policy, the Israel policy and the regional strategic concept the administration had put in place.

For many mainstream media this seemed like chaos, but for insiders there was a consistent agenda. Friedman recalls that in early conversations he had with Netanyahu, they had discussed options for diplomatic advancement in the region.

It’s important to remember that in November 2018 Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Liberman resigned, angered by the tepid response to massive rocket fire from Gaza. This set the stage for elections in April 2019. More elections would follow in September 2019, March 2020 and March 2021. The election chaos put a spanner in the timeline in DC.

Nevertheless the overall concept the White House had been discussing with Israel was the opportunity to endorse a new peace agreement that Israel would accept. Then the US would push for peace from the “outside in,” meaning from countries like the Gulf leading toward better relations with the Palestinians.

The peace plan was finally released in January 2020 with the ambassadors of Oman, Bahrain and the UAE in attendance in Washington. Otaiba put out a statement on the peace plan. “The United Arab Emirates appreciates continued US efforts to reach a Palestine-Israel peace agreement. This plan is a serious initiative that addresses many issues raised over the years.”

The plan came with a map and many good ideas, say those involved in it. Palestinian rejection of the proposal would pave the way for Gulf normalization, as the Gulf countries could say they had backed the Trump peace plan and were now not avoiding the Palestinians but merely moving forward while the Palestinians refused to even talk to Israel.

The West Wing push for the Vision for Peace plan in January also got support from Saudi Arabia.

“I remember Saudi Arabia, which we still haven’t normalized with, said they appreciated the effort and said the process should continue under supervision of US. They had up to that point only said they had the Arab Peace Initiative.... we saw that as a significant move on the part of Saudi Arabia,” says Friedman.

“For years there was a recognition that there was a strategic interest in UAE and Bahrain – paradigmatic moderate Sunnis – in joining with Israel as a diplomatic partner, and they were looking for the right time and opportunity. The peace plan and prosperity conference and willingness to suspend sovereignty, taken together, coupled with absurd recalcitrance of the Palestinians and their rejection of jets with COVID supplies, it created an environment where there was enough justification to normalize,” he recalls.”

IN ISRAEL at the Foreign Ministry, Eliav Benjamin, the head of the Middle East Bureau, recalls that he had been dealing with these issues before normalization. “The components included issues we had worked on for a number of months beforehand. While the timing was a surprise, the content was not a surprise.”

Key issues in the spring of 2020 involved the fight against COVID, and the need for flight routes to and from the UAE, which would pass over Saudi Arabia.

Many Israelis were already doing business in the Gulf, and hundreds of companies linked to Israel had dealings there, usually making sure products showed up marked not “made in Israel,” but, rather, made in third countries or through subsidiaries. For instance, one company that made postsurgical bras had to have the “made in Israel” tags removed. Then one day, the owner was told they could stay on.

It’s a globalized world, and Dubai and other areas in the Gulf are key conduits of trade. Israel had some limited relations with these countries going back to the 1990s, including an Israeli Trade Mission in Qatar that was closed in 2000 during the Second Intifada. Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin traveled to Oman in December 1994 and Shimon Peres went there in 1996. Netanyahu would return in the fall of 2018, setting the stage for some of the new warmth toward Israel coming from the Gulf. According to a 1985 AP report, Ariel Sharon had discussions with Sudan’s Jaafar Nimeiri about the airlift of Ethiopian Jews. Morocco and Israel also had limited ties before the agreements.

Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan Nahoum, a co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council and Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum, has been a major supporter of close ties. Born in London and raised in Gibraltar with a mother from Morocco, she has a deep sense that the Sephardi Jewish heritage of many in Israel forms a natural bridge to peace between Jews and Arabs.

“We didn’t know it would happen so fast, but we knew something was cooking,” she recalls.

Along with Dorian Barak, she had met Aryeh Lightstone and ambassador Friedman. “We had been talking about picking a project, possibly in Jerusalem, that we could do together with the Emiratis.”

By June the Business Council was founded. “We wanted to create people-to-people infrastructure for under-the-radar normalization, which seemed to be going faster. We didn’t really believe it was going to happen so fast.”

In May 2020 the first flight from the UAE landed in Israel carrying humanitarian aid for the Palestinians. In retrospect, it was a symbol; on June 9 a second plane landed, the big Etihad logo emblazoned on it.

Three days later Otaiba wrote an op-ed in Israel’s leading newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, and UAE Director of Strategic Communications at its Foreign Ministry, Hend Al Otaiba, tweeted in Hebrew. A month later, in early July, Israel’s leading defense companies, with roots in state founding, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, signed a memorandum of understanding with Group 42 in the UAE to fight COVID together.

For Lightstone, the former senior adviser to Friedman and special envoy for economic normalization, enthusiasm for the Accords is effusive.

“It was surreal; there were things accomplished that in your wildest imagination you wouldn’t have thought of them,” he says of the last year.

Each country had its own sensitivity. “I was on every direct first flight; to Abu Dhabi and then Bahrain, and then from Abu Dhabi to Israel, and the first flight to Morocco. What is important to know, recognize and appreciate is that while there was a momentum of success in the region, each one of these opportunities is and was unique on its own.” And it happened during the pandemic.

“I had the unique opportunity to have a front-row seat for the Abraham Accords, maybe at the conception. I was invited by UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to meet with him and bring the first-ever group of evangelical leaders to meet MBZ in October 2018, and we had two hours with the crown prince in the palace just sitting and talking with him about all the major issues,” recalls Joel Rosenberg, editor of All Israel News and author of the forthcoming book Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East.

Rosenberg says his group was interested in knowing if any Arab leaders in the region were ready to make peace. “We said we had been praying for a long time, but there hasn’t been an Arab leader since King Hussein ready to make peace; and we were looking for the next Arab leader to do so.”

Bin Zayed, known as MBZ, stunned the group by leaning forward and saying “Joel, I am ready to make peace with Israel.”

“We could hardly believe it, we hadn’t come thinking we would get an answer to that question,” says Rosenberg.

On September 7, 2020, Rosenberg received a text message from Dr. Ali al-Nuaimi, an adviser to MBZ, hours before the news broke. “Watch the news closely, big story about to break.”

Back at the White House a senior official tells me that the joint statement on August 13 was crafted with the idea it would exceed the previous peace deals with Egypt and Jordan to lay the groundwork for warmth. The UAE was taking a bold step. While Bahrain had been keen on peace and coexistence for years, the perception was that Saudi Arabia needed to give a green light, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was coordinating with MBZ. The UAE, larger than Bahrain and facing a different set of circumstances, could go first with testing the normalization waters.

“What I cared most about,” says the senior official, was having direct flights. This paid off quickly because within a year 200,000 people had flown to the Gulf.

The senior official points to key milestones, such as coexistence in sports such as rugby, soccer and cycling; finance, security, health and even library ties; coexistence groups like Sharaka that emerged, and then the diplomatic exchanges.

Eitan Na’eh, Israel’s former ambassador to Turkey, would be appointed the lead diplomat in the UAE by January, until Foreign Minister Yair Lapid inaugurated an embassy in Abu Dhabi on June 29, 2021. Mohamed Al Khaja would become the first UAE ambassador to Israel in mid-February 2021.

“It’s been beautiful to watch,” says the senior official.

For many Trump administration officials, there was a sad point. Trump lost the November election, just months after the Accords, and by January they were out of office.

“You have to connect as many wires as you can, and it will fall into hands of other people with different priorities,” the official says. Nevertheless, it is a beacon in the region and a paradigm shift, the crafters say.

Yoel Guzansky, one of Israel’s foremost experts on the Gulf, is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) specializing in Gulf politics and security.

“If we spoke a year ago, we wouldn’t be saying that in a year from now we will be celebrating a year anniversary agreement with the UAE. We had good relations under the table,” he says.

He has been going to the Gulf since before the Accords. He says one year is not enough to do a full analysis, but it is impressive what has been accomplished. “We tend to get used to things, good or bad, and things become less impressive, and if you look at it in those eyes, so people will look at it as the new normal.”

He points out that while the UAE and Israel have similarities, such as technical innovation, the UAE received a number of incentives to make this happen, such as Israel taking annexation off the table. The UAE is also supposed to get a deal finalized from the US to get fifth-generation F-35 warplanes, which it has wanted for years. The question he asks is what might come next, what would be the price Israel might pay, for instance, for normalization with Riyadh.

Guzansky thinks the UAE took a calculated risk. Days before the accords, Guzansky recalls being at INSS and being on a videoconference with colleagues from the UAE. These kinds of meetings illustrated how normal the UAE was already perceiving the relationship, before the announcement.

Today he looks back and notes that had Trump stayed in office, the momentum of the Accords might have continued to include more countries. Now countries must consider other issues, such as Iran’s growing power and the US drawing down in the region.

AFTER THE Accords were announced and signed, Lightstone recalls, Friedman hosted a delegation from Bahrain at his home in Jerusalem. He pauses, thinking about it. The US ambassador was now in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, hosting a delegation from a new peace partner in the Gulf. There were business leaders at the meeting, and it felt natural. This is the message of the Accords many of those involved point to. Once they were done, the sense of normality of working with the Gulf was already there. For some businesspeople who had worked behind the scenes or gone back and forth, this was merely coming in from the cold.

Barak, who has been involved with the Gulf for a decade after investing in an Israeli tech company with significant activity in Abu Dhabi, says the relationship has been developing at a rapid pace.

“There are things that were obvious – trade carried out via third countries [e.g., Cyprus, Jordan] could now flow directly; tourism would bring Israelis to Dubai in droves; Israelis would begin to operate through Dubai as a gateway to the greater Middle East, India, South Asia and beyond.”

No one expected the warmth in people-to-people relations, he says. Friendships are being formed, and religious, cultural and civil society engagement is happening.

George Giles, co-founder of MEA consulting, says that last year has gone “from the establishment of mutual embassies, to kidney donations between the two countries, to business dealings with a $1.1 billion investment from Mubadala in Israeli natural gas.”

For Ambassador Al Khaja, who has been settling in to his new environment in Tel Aviv, “the Accords set a significant historic precedent that also requires an unprecedented approach to tackle the embedded perceptions that developed over the years. The Accords provided an opportunity of new hope and set forth a path that could change our lives in the region for the sake of our children and generations to come.”

Looking at the immediate success, most agree that everything is moving in the right direction, with a few hurdles.

Hassan-Nahoum says that some Israelis thought they’d find a lot of investment from the UAE in venture capital, and have been disappointed it didn’t happen as fast. Trust-building needs to take place. There are many MoUs, and friendships are growing. COVID restrictions have prevented people from the Gulf coming to Israel. Israelis who did work in the Gulf before can now run businesses openly linked to Israel.

“It’s a model for a new era of peace between Israel and Arab countries,” she says.

Mohammed Baharoon, director-general of the Dubai Public Policy Research Center, says that “the bilateral aspect is developing fast, but the surface of regional potential has not been scratched yet.”

He has been meeting Israelis since an IMF meeting in Dubai in 2003, but he describes the cautious optimism that has greeted the Accords as being on the verge of a new discovery but not knowing how it will end. He points out that the agreement is aimed at defusing the identity struggles and religious dimensions of a conflict that has been perceived as a Jewish-Muslim conflict in recent years.

“The conflict calculus has governed the dynamics of the region and needs to be changed. It can’t be achieved without addressing the Palestinian issue.”

That means that while pushing coexistence can reduce radicalization and terrorism in the region, the elephant in the room will remain the absence of movement on the Palestinian issue.

It also means US commitment to the Accords under the Biden administration is key. A special envoy for the Accords would help convince the countries involved of US support. Reports in June said the Biden team might tap former ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro for an envoy job linked to the Accords’ countries.

IT HAS been a roller-coaster ride in the last year. In the fall of 2021 tens of thousands of Israelis went to the UAE, and dozens of flights were going back and forth a week. Then that stopped as Israel closed its main airport and ramped up vaccinations. Netanyahu waffled on trips to the UAE, eventually leaving office without going.

This left relations up to a new government in Israel and a new US administration. Benjamin points to key visits by Lapid and also key delegations, such as the July 2021 visit to Israel by Mariam Hareb Almheiri, minister of state for food security. Bahrain sent a large delegation with Minister Zayed Al Zayani, who signed an MoU in December 2020.

“It normally takes much longer; our foot is on the gas and not letting go at all,” says Benjamin. “The challenge is getting to know each other. It is a cultural challenge understanding complexities and sensitivities and understanding basic culture on each end.... Understanding the messages on both ends is important.”

Benjamin knows the complexities here, having served in China in the past.

Mansoori says that people in the UAE have been prepared for peace via the strategic vision and messaging of the government.

“The feedback I got was highly positive, and people were very excited,” he recalls. But expectations have been different on both sides. “We are business-oriented, and we expected the pace to be faster for multiple initiatives across different sectors.”

Mike Sussman, CEO of Sussman Corporate Security, who knows the Gulf hospitality well after the past year, agrees. “Trade, peace and tolerance are all part of it. But, ultimately, it is seeing beyond the unknown and each other’s differences and understanding that in order for each other to succeed and achieve that vision, we have to work together where we can contribute to one another’s success.”

He says there should be a regional platform coming out of this peace agreement to look at broader strategy. That means understanding the rising strength of Iran and its connections to Russia and China, for instance.

Like many of those I spoke to, he notes that while Israelis have come to the UAE, few people from the Emirates have been able to go to Israel. They don’t want to ask for special permission, but, rather, to have the ease of travel envisioned in the accords.

“We should move on the reciprocity of openness on both sides, such as exchanges of visits.”

He also mentions that it is important that other countries in the region see the benefit of peace.

“We need to work on building and developing a mechanism for business culture,” he says, noting the importance of sharing technology and local success. This points to becoming more self-reliant as a region and thinking strategically together.

A key test of the accords was the Gaza conflict in May. Friedman, who met with officials from Bahrain and the UAE recently, says that they told him collectively that everyone passed the test. “We passed with flying colors; two leaders used that term. I had a conversation with the foreign minister of UAE, Sheikh Abdullah; he said, ‘Look, the great battle of the 21st century, it’s not one people against another, it’s the extremists against the moderates. It exists all over the world.’”

“Barriers have come down and more will, given the right international support, vision, economic stability and political developments,” says Malcolm Honlein, vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “I have seen firsthand even in recent days that [the Accords] have changed many of the prospects for regional cooperation, and there is more openness beyond the signatory countries.”

The devotion to tolerance is what many point to. Barak says the UAE is certainly the most tolerant and peaceful country in the region.

“This is a once-in-a-generational opportunity. If these peace agreements go the way of Egypt and Jordan and become cold, then there is no benefit, and then the Middle East we’ve known becomes the Middle East our kids will know,” says Lightstone.

Business ties will need to increase as well through participation of Israeli companies in trade shows and conferences, says Gil Kraeim of MEA Consultants. “Throughout the year, Israeli companies have participated in major events and trade shows, which started for the first time at GITEX, the biggest tech event in the region.”

For Asher Fredman, CEO of Gulf-Israel Green Ventures, “the combination of Israel and the UAE’s unique strengths, capabilities and spirit can transform the two countries into global leaders in the fields of sustainable innovation and development.”

Greenway agrees and adds that “we are waiting for Israel and Morocco to launch their first business delegation.”

For many Jewish figures in the Gulf, the last year has been momentous as well. Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, says that “in the span of one year, there were many announcements regarding kosher food in all three countries; and as the world’s largest certification agency, we are proud to play a large role in helping them to create more kosher infrastructure in their countries.” It will stimulate Jewish tourism.

Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo, president of the Bahrain Jewish community, says he is thrilled to celebrate this historic milestone – the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords. “This year, we have welcomed many delegations from Israel and expect that number to more than triple in a year or two.... We have been able to have a few minyanim and are hoping to do that more regularly as the number of tourists increases.”

The Iraqi-born Edwin Shuker, who has been living in Europe for the past 50 years and is the outgoing vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, is also moving to the UAE. “We are witnessing a moment in history where Jews and Arabs reconnect as the sons of Abraham. In the next few months I will be moving to Dubai to witness it.”

Ellie Cohanim, senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy and former US deputy special envoy to combat antisemitism, says that this past year has seen unfold a “reunion between Israelis and their Arab neighbors.... With this reunion we are also witnessing a correlating decrease in Jew-hatred and anti-Zionism in the Abraham Accords countries, but also as a ripple effect, throughout the region.”

Houda Nonoo agrees. “As one of the few indigenous Jews in the Arabian Gulf, it is particularly meaningful to me. As a citizen of this region, I am filled with excitement to see the construction of a new Middle East, one focused on coexistence and prosperity.”

She thanks King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and His Royal Highness, Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the crown prince and prime minister, for their leadership and vision in the signing of the Abraham Accords.

A year after the Accords, they are still impactful.

“It was the kind of news that you needed to double-check was true!” recalls Michael Dickson, executive director, StandWithUs-Israel. “If the initial feeling towards this breakthrough was tantalizing, then the reality a year on is even more so.”

Companies such as IAI stress that they are now looking to grow partnerships in the UAE. The Israeli Foreign Ministry is working “tirelessly” to deepen and expand relations.“The momentum of the Abraham Accords has opened the door for promoting cooperation in the regional ecosystem. Exhibitions, like CyberTech and the upcoming Dubai Airshow, provide IAI with an opportunity to meet local partners and vendors, and broaden the levels of co-production and co-development of systems. IAI’s activity in the region will cater to the needs of our Emirati customer, adding value to the development and localization of joint technology," says Sharon Biton, the Marketing Vice-President at IAI. 

“We would like to see other countries join, and we are working on that, and we want to see our immediate neighbors go further.... We are open for initiatives, and it is an important message for us to relay – a message of the importance of these new relations and the benefit of the relations to the region,” says Benjamin.

“In the coming years we will work to strengthen relations with our Palestinian neighbors, to deepen relations with Egypt and Jordan, to further develop our new alliances, and to continue expanding the accords – never hesitating to defend ourselves while never ceasing to chase new prospects for peace,” says Gantz.


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