Yesterday, the first commercial Israeli flight arrived in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. This was organised just two weeks after US President Donald Trump announced the peace deal between the UAE and the occupation state of Israel. Trump tweeted that the deal is a “HUGE breakthrough” and a “Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!”
Israeli and American officials called the first direct flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi a prelude to a more prosperous era of good relations between the two countries. They also expressed their hope that it would break the ice for official ties between the occupation state and other Arab countries.
The agreement covers the normalisation of diplomatic, cultural and economic ties between the two countries. Many Israeli officials and analysts, as well as international experts, however, insist that it was put together to boost Israel’s economy, which stands to get a huge boost.
“We are witnessing a historical event,” Israel’s Minister of Regional Cooperation Ofir Akunis told Channel 11 on Sunday. “It is a dramatic and unprecedented breakthrough [and] the cornerstone to exit from an economic crisis.” Akunis was reported in Ynet News with more details about the economic gains. “We are talking about commercial deals worth $500 million in the initial stages, and this will keep rising all the time,” he explained.
Economy Minister Amir Peretz, meanwhile, has already ordered teams from his ministry to start strengthening economic ties with the UAE. According to the Times of Israel, he suggested that they start by opening a trade mission within the proposed Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi. The newspaper added that, “The areas of industry expected to gain the most were cyber industries, medical equipment, financial technology and communications.” Israeli TV cited official figures stating that current Israeli exports to the UAE are around $300,000 a year, which could rise to an annual $300-$500 million.
After this agreement, the Economist pointed out, “Israelis are expected to join the hordes of well-heeled foreigners who have opened businesses or bought swanky pads in the coastal emirate.”
The deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House in London, Sanam Vakil, noted that there are a lot of opportunities for investment and technology, tourism, trade. “This relationship [after reaching the deal] has been brewing behind the scenes for a number of years now, and sort of coming out allows for both countries to reap the economic gains rather than just solely, quietly benefiting from the security and intelligence ones.”
However, the Financial Times sounded a note of caution. It reported businessmen and officials saying that, “A long history of suspicion combined with the fickle nature of Middle East alliances and practical difficulties could prove an initial barrier to the booming trade, tourism and security ties promised by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.” According to a senior Israeli official, the fruits of this relationship will not be seen immediately. “Slowly, slowly,” said the diplomat. “They haven’t picked up the phone since 1971 [when the UAE was founded] — let’s learn to walk first, then we can hug and dance.”
The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, echoed these remarks. “There’s lots to do, you’ve announced that you will begin a relationship but you have nothing on the ground, have no past practices, no consulate, so have to do a lot of these mundane issues that are important to every relationship… We are looking at a lot of the groundwork and it’s quite a process.”
The two existing peace agreements between Israel and Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, were marketed by claims that they included terms in favour of the Palestinians and their rights. The Egyptian deal stipulated that Israel should halt its settlement activities in the occupied territories and let Palestinians have autonomy, while Jordan’s deal reinforced the Hashemite Kingdom’s sovereignty over the holy sites in the occupied city of Jerusalem.
While Israel got what it wanted from both deals, it has not fulfilled its own obligations. It broke the ice in its relations with the Arab states, exchanged ambassadors and used the land, water and space of both of its new friends for its own interests. Yes, the Palestinians have autonomy of sorts, but Israel has continued to build illegal settlements at a furious pace and infringe on Jordan’s rights over the holy places.
A statement issued by the UAE, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed said that Israel had pledged to “to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories.” Israel disavowed this even before announcing the deal. Moreover, it has denied that it agreed to let the US sell advanced fighter jets to the UAE.
This suggests that Israel is going to do the same that it did with the Egypt and Jordan peace treaties; take what it wants and ignore the rest. Nevertheless, the UAE is going ahead with it. Peace deals between Israel and Arab states, it seems, are intended first and foremost to benefit Israel and give Arab blessings for its aggression against the Palestinians and their rights.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.