OpinionMiddle East

The makings of a true peace

The historic Israel-UAE agreement is changing social dynamics for Israelis and Emiratis alike.

U.S. President Donald Trump, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyani sign the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 15, 2020. Credit: White House/Tia Dufour.
U.S. President Donald Trump, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyani sign the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 15, 2020. Credit: White House/Tia Dufour.
Michal Divon
Michal Divon

It’s a new Middle East—and anyone who has been following the news, or more importantly, social media, is discovering an entirely new language with respect to Israel-Arab relations, one characterized by the warmth, curiosity and excitement sparked by the recent peace deals signed between Israel, and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The people have spoken, and they love each other. It happened so instantly that it has caused some skeptics to raise eyebrows and question the authenticity of this rapprochement, but anyone who is in touch with the “other side” knows that this outspoken sympathy is genuine.

Terms like “warm peace” and “normalization” are often used but only for lack of better description. Truth be told, the peace between Israel and the UAE isn’t just warm; it’s sizzling hot.

“It’s like we’re dating,” said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, while Chief Rabbi of the UAE Yehuda Sarna believes that “Israeli tourists won’t want to leave.”

Emiratis are reacting similarly. Dubai-based businessman Thani AlShirawi, who co-founded the Israel-UAE Business Forum with Hassan Nahoum, says he is “on cloud nine.” Emirati author Omar al-Busaidy, who attended the White House signing ceremony on Sept. 15, said he hasn’t stopped smiling, and “you can feel the energy everywhere.”

If anything, the Abraham Accords is a people’s peace. For many Israelis, especially at a time when they face a second coronavirus-triggered lockdown that is compounded by political uncertainty and nationwide protests, this peace is a gift to be enjoyed by generations to come, one the impact of which will be felt long after the COVID and political crises have gone.

“It’s like we’re dating,” said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum.

Less than a month after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan joined U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House for the signing ceremony, dozens of partnerships have been formed between the Jewish state and the Arabian Gulf power, and the list grows daily.

Israel’s leading banks, Leumi and Hapoalim, sent delegations to the UAE, where they signed memorandums of understanding with the National Bank of Dubai and First Abu Dhabi Bank. The agreement will allow Israeli clients to make direct transactions in the UAE without needing a third-party mediator, as was necessary in the past.

Both countries’ environmental protection ministers have agreed to join forces on a series of issues, including alternative energy, protecting maritime life, desert-wildlife protection and more. Since both countries are regional leaders with respect to desalination projects, establishing a joint research center focusing on desert technologies is also being seriously discussed.

According to the Dubai-based Khaleej Times Israeli and UAE tourism industries expect around 1.25 million tourists to travel between the two countries, and advanced negotiations to establish direct aviation routes and tourist visa regulations are said to be underway. Emirates Airlines catering has signed an MOU to set up kosher- food production, and Abu Dhabi hotels are gearing up to serve kosher meals to guests.

The Abraham Accords also detailed collaboration in the fields of medicine and health care, primarily focused on pursuing a vaccine for COVID-19. Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare company and Israel’s NanoScent signed an MOU for COVID-19 screening tests, Emirati APEX National Investment company signed an agreement with Israel’s Tera Group focusing on COVID-19 research, and the list goes on.

Normalization is happening across all sectors: The Abu Dhabi Film Commission and the Israel Film Fund announced plans to establish joint programs for Emirati and Israeli filmmakers; Israeli soccer player Dia Saba signed with Dubai’s Al-Nasr soccer club, becoming the first Israeli to join the Arab league; and Israeli models recently participated in a campaign shot in the UAE.

These all follow one of the biggest pre-peace deal sporting moments in Israel’s history, which saw the national anthem of the Jewish state play in Abu Dhabi after judoka Sagi Muki won the gold medal in the 2018 Grand Slam.

The Jewish community in Dubai, which with 250 members is the largest in the UAE, is being embraced by both people and authorities.

Shabbat services being held via Zoom due to the pandemic led by Chief Rabbi Sarna have hosted several Emirati officials, including UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs Shamma Al Mazrui and UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba.

Services ended with a special prayer for the well-being of the government and leadership of the United Arab Emirates, mentioning by name UAE leader Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Looking at all of this, it is quite clear that the peace train has left the station. All that is left to do is to hop on.

Michal Divon is a New York-based Israeli journalist and TV host, currently working with News12 Networks. She holds a BA in government, diplomacy and strategy from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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