Israel and United Arab Emirates sign historic trade agreement

The signing comes at a time of high tension between Muslims and Jews after months of clashes in Jerusalem

AFP KARIM SAHIB /AHMAD GHARABLI  -   Since the signing of the so-called Abraham Accords, the volume of Israeli exports of goods and services to its new partner in the Persian Gulf has exceeded 500 million dollars

New historic rapprochement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. After months of negotiation, the two countries have signed what is already known as "the great trade agreement", an economic pact that seeks to boost trade between these two countries in the Middle East region, at a time when tensions between Israel and the Palestinians continue to rise.

Business leaders have hailed the development as an "unprecedented" agreement. Among them, the co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council told Al Arabiya that the pact will have "incalculable benefits" over the next five years. 

bin zayed-exteriores-eau-lapid-israel
WAM/Handout via REUTERS - Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid shakes hands with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi.

He also notes that 'trade between the UAE and Israel will exceed $2 billion by 2022, rising to around $5 billion in five years, driven by collaboration in the renewable energy, consumer goods, tourism and life sciences sectors'. Alongside this, he said, "Dubai is fast becoming a hub for Israeli companies looking to South Asia, the Middle East and the Far East as markets for their goods and services. Nearly 1,000 Israeli companies will be working in and through the UAE by the end of the year. It is unprecedented," he remarked. 

Before proceeding to the signing, the Israeli Ministry of Economy confirmed that the agreement will eliminate tariffs on food, cosmetics, medical equipment and medicines.

AFP/JACK GUEZ  - Emirates and Bahrain to sign agreements to recognise Israel at White House on Tuesday

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Thani al-Zeyoudi, reported on his Twitter account that "this historic agreement will build on the Abraham Accords" and help consolidate "one of the most important and promising emerging trade relations in the world".

For the UAE, this agreement with Israel is its second bilateral free trade agreement, having signed a similar deal with India last February, as well as bilateral trade relations with South Korea and Indonesia. 

This development, which stems from the Abraham Accords, is a testament to the close economic and commercial ties between the UAE and Israel. The signing of the agreements was the first step in formalising trade and economic relations between four Arab countries and Israel. In addition, the signing also constituted an affirmation by these countries of their recognition of Israel as a state, which was unusual given the Israeli-Palestinian conflict separating the two sides.

PHOTO/AP - Bennett calls for "responsibility and respect" during the Parade of Flags

In fact, even though the signing took place, the Emirati Foreign Ministry demanded that the Israeli authorities "take responsibility for de-escalation and end all attacks and practices that lead to the continuation of tensions, while stressing the need to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further instability". The media invited to witness the signing of the agreement were then informed that they would no longer be able to attend the signing, without giving any reason for this sudden change.

He also condemned the actions of the ultra-Orthodox during "Flag Day" and the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by "extremist settlers under the protection of Israeli forces". 

AP/ARIEL SCHALIT -  Tensions between Israeli ultra-nationalists and Palestinians erupt over racist chanting

Coinciding with this signing, Jerusalem was again the scene of violent clashes between Muslims and Jews. On 30 May, hundreds of Jews, mostly ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalists, held the "Flag Day" parade, celebrating the conquest of the eastern part of Jerusalem after the 6-Day War. During this day, 18 Palestinians were arrested by the Israeli police on suspicion of involvement in riots and aggression.

During the day, the ultra-nationalists repeated several racist anti-Muslim chants and tried to provoke riots, something that was harshly criticised by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who said that these groups "are a disgrace" and "are not worthy of holding the Israeli flag".

AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS -  Palestinians assess the damage caused by Israeli airstrikes, in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, 14 May 2021.

Despite this condemnation by the Israeli government, the truth is that these confrontations are nothing new. In recent months we have witnessed recurrent incursions by Jews into the holy Esplanade of Mosques, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the most sacred sites for the Islamic religion, is located. 

The mosque is open to everyone, but non-Islamists are not allowed to use it as a place to pray, a fact that some Jews have not respected. This is why in recent months we have seen violent confrontations between the two sides, as well as significant police violence on the part of the Israeli authorities towards Muslims, even facilitating Jewish visits to the compound. 

AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI  - File photo, Israeli police carry a young injured Palestinian protester at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on April 22, 2022.

Moreover, these rifts have increased after the passing of a court ruling that the Israeli army has the right to evict more than 1,300 Palestinians from their homes in the occupied West Bank, which has provoked general outrage on the Palestinian side. In addition, just three weeks ago, Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot in the head by Israeli police while reporting on the evictions.

The Israeli government has not made any statement on the matter and has only stated that the investigation into the case concludes that "it is not possible to determine unequivocally the origin of the shot" that killed her.