On the third anniversary of the Abraham Accords which were signed on September 15, 2020, the United Arab Emirates embassy in Tel Aviv published and celebrated the following figures on their ties with the Jewish State:
- Trade at $5.6 billion
- More than a million Israeli tourists
- 106 weekly flights
- 120 agreements and memoranda of understanding
- 70 Israeli companies operating in the Emirates
- The first free trade agreement between Israel and a Gulf state
The embassy’s press release concluded: “We have seen significant achievements so far, and hope to see more joint successes in the near future.”
Alas, a few days ahead of the celebration, Globes published a sour-faced article headlined: “Unfulfilled potential? Three years after the Abraham agreements, trade with Bahrain is not taking off.”
It reminded me of the joke about the man who gets a green and a red shirt from his mother-in-law, so he wears the red shirt to make her happy when she visits, and when he opens the door, she says, So, you hate the green one.
According to Globes, “In 2022, the volume of trade between the two countries was only about $13 million, compared to $2.6 billion between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and this despite the fact that Bahrain and the Emirates signed the Abraham Accords simultaneously. In Israel, there’s talk that the volume of trade is expected to triple in the coming year, but even if it reaches 40 or 50 million dollars, these are still negligible amounts. Tourism between the two countries is also not increasing so far, and in 2022 only about 4,500 Israeli tourists visited Bahrain, and a negligible number of Bahraini tourists came to Israel, despite the launch of 5 Gulf Air flights a week connecting Ben Gurion International with the airport in Manama.”
There were similarly sour-faced notes in Haaretz, and Ynet merely mentioned the UAE embassy’s release while both newspapers’ front pages on Friday morning included zero references to the historic date.
There are good reasons why Bahrain has been slower to develop its relations with Israel, which the leftist media failed to mention. It comes down to Iran, which, until 1970, claimed ownership of the island of Bahrain. Another reason is that Bahrain is majority Shiite, and so it is under greater Iranian influence than other Gulf states. Indeed, Bahrain’s leadership felt threatened enough in 2016 to suspend its diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic. With that in mind, the fact that Bahrain and Israel maintain a solid diplomatic relationship and open trade should be viewed as a miracle, not a failure, never mind the numbers.
There is another, happy aspect to Israel’s relationship with the UAE, on top of the great commercial successes. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia cannot come at the expense of a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Biden administration is hell-bent on leveraging Israeli-Saudi peace to establish a Palestinian State that no one wants, not even most “Palestinians.”
In that context, UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, on Wednesday declared that his country cannot stop Israel from annexing Judea and Samaria (UAE Envoy: Powerless to Stop Israel from Applying Sovereignty). Speaking at a ceremony marking the 3rd anniversary of the Abraham Accords, the ambassador explained: “Our deal was based on a certain time period, and that time period is almost done, and so we have no ability to leverage the decisions that are made outside of the period that was what the Abraham Accords was based on.”
It appears that, in 2020, in an effort to cajole the UAE to enter the treaty with Israel, the Trump administration reassured them that the US would not recognize Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria until 2024.
Question: why would the UAE ambassador go out of his way to declare that his country is powerless to stop Israeli sovereignty at the expense of the two-state solution? For the same reason, Saudi Arabia is faking an interest in 2-State. Only the Biden administration is pushing for it, and its motive is hardly a concern for the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority, who suffer under the cruel PLO dictatorship. Biden’s insistence on a “Palestinian state” has to do with winning Michigan and Ohio, two battleground states with significant Arab populations.
The White House is also invested in preventing Prime Minister Netanyahu from expanding Israeli ties in the Muslim world on the foundation of the Abraham Accords. In March, Al-Monitor reported that Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen have been pushing the Americans to promote Israeli diplomatic relations with Indonesia, Niger, Mauritania, and Somalia, all Muslim countries. But Biden, unlike Trump, discourages new peace agreements as long as Israel does not follow its 2-state doctrine.
The Trump administration actively supported the expansion of the Abraham Accords to Sudan by taking it off the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism; and to Morocco by recognizing Morocco’s claim on Western Sahara. Biden has no such goodwill in store for Netanyahu.