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The situation in the region one year after the Abraham Accords

The Abraham Accords marked a historic step in the normalisation of relations between Israel and four Arab countries
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REUTERS/TOM BRENNER  -   File photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed

The Abraham Accords mark one year since their official signing at the White House. One year on, Israel's rapprochement has been more than evident with the opening of its embassy in the United Arab Emirates, as well as a major trade programme with the Gulf country that has catapulted economic relations between the two countries.

In turn, these agreements have paved the way for rapprochement with Morocco, which has led to commercial cooperation and the opening of commercial flights between Tel Aviv and Rabat, Marrakech and Casablanca. In this context, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Morocco, Omar Hilale, told the United Nations that "for the Kingdom of Morocco, this joyous celebration is a commitment to strengthen and expand the ties fostered by these historic agreements, and to accelerate the positive transformation of the region, to increase stability, security and prosperity for us and for future generations".

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

"Our region is tired of war. Our region has suffered from all kinds of extremism, terrorism and rejection of the other. Our region needs real and warm peace. We need peace in our hearts and minds. We need peace as a strategic objective and as a horizon for us and also for future generations." What the Abraham Accords have shown is that they have created a climate of understanding that is committed to creating common bonds, especially in the areas of security, trade and finance.

For her part, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield noted that in the space of a year, concrete progress has been made through the Abraham Accords, assuring that the Biden administration "clearly wants to build on this model and replicate its success". 

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What successes have been achieved in the region, are the agreements more than enough to bring peace to the region, and recent developments over the past year show that trade relations are stronger than ever. Still, conflicts in the region remain latent and tensions between Palestine and Israel have remained the order of the day, opening new wounds between Arab countries that maintain close relations with Israel and those that do not as intrinsic support for Palestine.

The agreements of the century

On 15 September Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in the presence of the now ex-president Donald Trump, formalised their diplomatic relations, marking a historic event: with Bahrain's accession, four Arab states recognised Israel's right to statehood, a genuine diplomatic success. 

Although the diplomatic agreements were announced on 13 August, their signing was postponed until 15 September in the White House. 

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REUTERS/TOM BRENNE - U.S. President Donald Trump listens to United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan

Even the very name of the accords has a peaceful connotation, as the choice of Abraham is not random. From the name Abraham stems the dynastic lines of Judaism because the Jewish people are considered descendants of Isaac. On the other hand, for Muslims, Abraham refers to the figure of the "compassionate father" and, moreover, is part of the same line of succession in Judaism and Jesus of Nazareth for Christians.

However, while the agreements signify mere mutual recognition and a willingness to begin building diplomatic relations, the consequences of such an alliance have gradually transformed the regional configuration of the East.

In the first instance, the Abrahamic Accords culminated in the creation of a regional alliance to curb the Iranian nuclear threat in the region and opened the door for the UAE and Israel to establish a framework for cooperation in this area. This first alliance, which has succeeded in creating a siege against the Gulf state, has also led to Saudi Arabia, the UAE's main ally, backing the coalition. Moreover, Bahrain is dependent on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in all its sectors, so it is believed that the Kingdom has played an important role in the validation of the agreements, at least from behind the scenes. 

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PHOTO/AP - UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

On the other hand, the agreements represent a diplomatic success for Israel. With the approval of the UAE and Bahrain, Israel was considered a state by two Arab countries, in addition to already having the support of Egypt and Jordan. Hasbara, that is, Israel's strategy of explaining its foreign policies to other countries and promoting Israel's own image, has played a key and effective role in achieving this goal, as it has led to the cessation of diplomatic hostilities with the aforementioned states and has brought about an Arab-Israeli rapprochement that is unprecedented in the region.

We witnessed this conciliation with the inauguration of an Israeli consulate in the United Arab Emirates. "What we are inaugurating today is not only a consulate, but also the centre of our cooperation (...) this place symbolises our ability to think together, to develop together, to change the world together," said Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Still, in political matters, both Israel and the UAE continue to take cautious lead steps, as a poorly taken or executed decision can raise tensions that for the moment seem to be dormant, at least between Israel and the UAE. 

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

A case in point was the escalation of tensions between Israel and Hamas militias last May. Faced with the escalation of the conflict, the UAE called an emergency meeting of the Arab Parliament on the pretext of 'discussing' the situation in Jerusalem in the light of the attacks on the al-Aqsa mosque, according to official sources in the UAE. Following the cessation of hostilities, Egypt led the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and played a leading role in the diplomatic victory between Israel and Hamas. However, relations with Israel remained unaffected, leaving aside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Moreover, the agreement triggered trade cooperation and has encouraged investment between Arab countries and Israel. For its part, Israel's important technological development has found in the Gulf region an export market, while the area has presented itself as an interesting and attractive tourist destination for Israelis. In addition, a few months ago we learned about the joint programme between Israel and the Emirates in an operation focused on transporting tourist travellers on Arab-Hebrew airlines.

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AFP/ EMMANUEL DUNAND  - Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid

It is worth noting that since the signing of the agreements, the volume of exports of Israeli products and services has exceeded 500 million dollars. According to EFE, according to the president of the Israel Export Institute, Adiv Baruch, the Emirati market is "an oasis in the desert" for Israelis. 

On the financial side, during the first few months, the Dubai government claimed that trade with Israel exceeded 6,000 tonnes, which translated into a balance of almost 200 billion in exports. The main sectors of these trade relations have been food technology, advanced medical equipment, cybersecurity, agriculture, diamonds and financial technology.

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AFP/ SAID KHATIB - Palestinian security forces next to an Egyptian aid truck arriving at the Rafah border crossing, which connects the Gaza Strip with Egypt.

For its part, Sudan announced its normalisation agreement with Israel in 2020, putting an end to "the state of belligerence between the two nations", according to the White House, a statement that added that relations "will contribute to regional security and enable new opportunities for the people of Sudan, Israel, the Middle East and Africa".

Morocco has also initiated a certain closeness with Israel in cyber-security, research and development cooperation following the political agreement that led to US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. In addition, consensual proposals on military and electronic warfare have been made in the past. 

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AFP/ JACK GUEZ  -  Israeli airlines, Israir, El Al and Arkia will serve several Moroccan cities, including Marrakech, from 25 July 2021.

However, it is clear that problems in the region remain. In this respect, it is difficult to try to bring peace to an area that has been experiencing continuous fighting, terrorism and instability. The Abraham Accords have ushered in a new era that has already proven to be effective. Undoubtedly, these first steps pave the way for a rift that has plagued the region for decades. In the end, the diplomatic track is the most stable means to reach solutions that seek to unite a region highly marked by differences and the resulting confrontations.