Landmark UAE-Israel trade deal proves resilience of Abraham Accords
Tensions in Jerusalem fail to derail normalization
This FTA is remarkable in itself: it will remove tariffs on most goods traded between the two countries and can therefore be expected to give a significant boost to trade and partnerships in a variety of sectors. As such, it serves as a reminder that unlike most analysis of the Abraham Accords, these agreements go far beyond the search for common ground and common assurance in the face of a shared Iranian threat. Although Iran is a mutual concern, driving part of these new alignments, the cooperative economic, social and technological dividends already generated by the agreements tell us that for all parties involved, normalization is as much about creating opportunities than facing challenges. .
As such, it is perhaps more remarkable that the FTA was signed in the immediate wake of an outbreak of violence and tension in Jerusalem, following a conveyed and conducted ‘Jerusalem Day’ flag parade by far-right Jewish nationalists in a Palestinian neighborhood of the city, and a previous month of uprising violence centered on the growing challenges of the story Standstill agreement on Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount. In fact, on the very day of the signing of the FTA, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs sentenced the “storming of extremist settlers in the courtyard of the blessed al-Aqsa mosque under the protection of Israeli forces”. In this post-Arab Peace Initiative world, the message is clear: Jerusalem – particularly the Al-Aqsa Mosque – remains important to the Emiratis, but the future and fate of their budding ties with Israel will not rise and fall. only on the trajectory of the Israelis. -Palestinian relations or conflict and occupation. These agreements are resilient and beholden only to national interests.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict still hovers over new regional alignments
It is a phenomenon with reverberations and reflections beyond the Emirates. In recent days, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken has referred to Saudi Arabia as an “essential partner…[in] help expand the Abraham Accords. This statement comes in the context of the proliferation reports and speculation about a recent high-level Israeli visitor to the Kingdom, and the Biden administration’s efforts to work towards more formal normalization of ties between these two countries, including through the reported mediation of a Saudi-Egyptian-Israeli OK on the transfer of two islands in the Red Sea from Egyptian sovereignty to Saudi sovereignty. While Saudi Arabia has continued to formally oppose the normalization of relations with Israel in the absence of progress towards a Palestinian state, its recognition that normalization is an end goal to strive for is clear. In this vein, at the Davos Economic Forum in recent days, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan pushed return on speculation that his country’s position had changed. He did so while praising the promise and potential that normalization could bring, but said “we can only reap these benefits if we tackle the issue of Palestine.” It is hard to imagine that Saudi Arabia does not have a clear view of the potential extent of these benefits as it considers its Emirati neighbor target to increase annual bilateral trade with Israel to more than $10 billion over the next five years.
As President Biden prepares for a visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah later this month, and a possible stopover in Saudi Arabia, it is this exhilarating mix of competing and sometimes contradictory priorities, realities and considerations that he is confronted with. While the administration continued to insist on “an enduring commitment to the principle of a two-state solution”, the lack of vigorous pursuit towards that goal, and the perceived inaction or even backtrack on previous commitments, made little to warm official US-Palestinian ties or engender greater confidence in the United States as a credible third party that can negotiate an end to the conflict and the occupation. Meanwhile, with the United States facing the realities of rising oil prices as part of Russia’s war on Ukraine, and the prospect of more realistic foreign policy progress on global warming (if gradual) Saudi-Israeli relations, the focus on repairing strained relations with the Saudi Kingdom and, in the process, pushing further towards Saudi-Israeli normalization seems like easier fruit than taking the Israelis to task and the Palestinians, or to challenge them to renew diplomacy.