There are many measures by which the success of the Abraham Accords can be determined: Volume of trade, number of tourists, the extent of academic collaboration and so on. As the third year since the signing of the Accords winds down, it’s safe to say that, by all indicators, the relationships have taken off. Trade between Israel and Accords countries has been growing exponentially, mutual investments have taken place and numerous cultural and academic delegations have convened.
Much (if not too much) has been said about the high expectations that followed the announcement of the Accords. “Disappointment” with the supposed slow pace of the Accords’ materialization can be explained by an overestimation of the likely speed of developments, and this seems less relevant now in light of the volume of activities over the past year.
In March 2023, the first Bahrain-Israel business conference, Connect2Innovate, took place in Manama. More than 500 people attended, the majority from Bahrain’s business community. For many Bahrainis, it was the first time they had met Israelis in person. Several business deals and partnerships were announced during and following the conference.
Over the last 12 months, visits to Israel by the heads of the Emirati free zones and, more importantly, registration of Israeli companies at the Abu Dhabi Global Market, Dubai International Financial Centre and Dubai Multi Commodities Centre have increased. This shows that Israeli businesses are making good use of the benefits that the free zones offer and are investing in opening offices in the United Arab Emirates.
Israeli-Moroccan partnerships have also multiplied in ag-tech, energy, water and more, accompanied by reciprocal investments. While the economic exchange is increasing at a quick and steady pace, there is still much potential for growth. We are moving in the right direction.
While all the above is, without a doubt, positive and encouraging, it is not the end of the story. The lens through which the Accords needs to be viewed must recognize the foundations that have been laid, the trajectory of growing relations and the potential that is being realized. In this context, the Abraham Accords can already be regarded as a success.
Considering the lack of official connections between the Accords countries for over seven decades, accompanied by mistrust and misconceptions, what has been accomplished so far is quite remarkable. The bottom line—deals, mutual investments and trade—speaks for itself.
This is just on the surface. Underneath, real people-to-people connections are being made. Learning each other’s challenges, strengths, areas for growth—and, more importantly, how to live with each other—are vital steps to cementing long-term partnerships.
Essentially, we have identified the commonalities and complementarities of each stakeholder. We understand not just what the shared challenges are but have discussed and actually started to implement partnerships that address them. Alongside the development of these new diplomatic relations, we are witnessing some of the most pressing issues of our time: The implications of climate change, which are being increasingly felt; coping with a global pandemic; and the international effects of regional conflicts, such as how the war in Ukraine impacted food security and migration trends in other countries.
The only way to tackle these and other problems is through collaboration. For collaboration to succeed, it must be based on innovation. The MENA region is both highly vulnerable to global challenges and a growing and expanding innovation hub, making it the natural breeding ground for technological solutions to the issues of our time. Cross-border partnerships are already underway between governments, businesses and civil society; this paves the way to creating those solutions. Emirati investments in Israeli ag-tech companies, Israeli water companies piloting in Bahrain and collaborations between climate tech companies from Morocco and Israel are just a few examples of how this once unattainable dream is coming true.
This new geopolitical reality is made possible by the active participation of the United States and greater American business engagement in this trilateral partnership is essential for its advancement. Additionally, for these new ties to be resilient and long-lasting, regional partnerships need to expand to more countries. Nations that Israel does not yet have relations with and, no less important, those with which Israel has had a peace agreement with for many years—Egypt and Jordan—are no longer outliers. The Abraham Accords created the conditions for these countries to expand and deepen their relations with Israel.
As we celebrate the third anniversary of the Abraham Accords, much tangible and meaningful progress has been made. While there is still more to be achieved, we should be proud of the momentum we have generated over the past three years.