The highlight of the relationship between Israel and the UAE is not its economic or political aspects, but rather the human side
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, famously remarked: “If you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not a realist.’’ Certainly Ben-Gurion’s personal odyssey – from arriving as a Polish-Jewish immigrant in the Middle East backwaters of the Ottoman Empire, to being the founding father of the first Jewish state in 2,000 years – provided plenty of justification for that belief. So was his claim that Israel would one day establish peaceful relations with its Arab neighbours, a vision he never lived to see.
The Camp David Accords, the peace treaty with Jordan, and especially the Abraham Accords that established full relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain (later adding Morocco and Sudan), only provides more evidence to the far-seeing nature of Ben-Gurion’s vision.
But if the Abraham Accords had a touch of the miraculous to them due to the seeming suddenness of their announcement and speed with which they have been fulfilled, seasoned Middle East observers may view the new ties between Israel and the UAE as a natural, if not pre-ordained, affinity.
Like Israel, the creation and rise of the UAE appears to defy realistic expectations. That seven emirates under British colonial rule could unite politically under the visionary leadership of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father, and within decades diversify its economy to become a global trading, tourism and technology powerhouse, is a trajectory well beyond the normative paths of nation-building.
One could draw all sorts of parallels with Israel’s surge of development in recent years; indeed, another famed Ben-Gurion maxim – “If we do not conquer the desert, it will conquer us” – appears to apply equally, if not even more so, to the Emirati experience.
Of course, the establishment and strengthening of ties between Israel and the UAE has been supercharged by several factors, including geo-political shifts and economic cooperation. In 2021, the first full year after the Abraham Accords, trade between Israel and the UAE surged to an astonishing $900m.
With the establishment of a free trade agreement between the countries this year that covers 95 per cent of the products traded between them, that figure is expected to more than double by the end of 2022.
As a journalist for i24NEWS, I’ve had the privilege of both covering that unprecedented business story, and being part of it. Moving quickly on the announcement of the Abraham Accords, i24NEWS became the first Israel-based media outlet to sign cooperation agreements with leading companies