Abraham’s Accords One Year Later – St. Louis Jewish Light
(September 17, 2021 / JNS) Demonstrating their friendship and willingness to continue working together in their region, the ambassadors of Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain participated in a roundtable on September 14, the eve of the first anniversary of the Abrahamic Accords, and gathered by the newly established Abrahamic Accord Peace Institute (AAPI).
Representatives from member countries and Americans involved in the negotiations or interested in the process attended the invitation-only meeting in a ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, DC, a few blocks from the White House .
AAPI President and Executive Director Robert Greenway, a former White House National Security Council official who played a key role in securing the deal, introduced the speakers and esteemed guests.
After a video montage of milestones since the Abrahamic Accords, Greenway introduced Jared Kushner, the former senior adviser to former President Donald Trump responsible for leading the Arab-Israeli peace process.
Kushner said that after he and Greenway left government earlier this year, they created the AAPI to ensure the deals could reach their potential.
“The Abraham Accords are the rare foreign policy effort that has achieved bipartisan consensus, and this is very, very important,” said Kushner, president and founder of AAPI.
Kushner said that during a 12-month period, which he called the “warm-up” period, Israel exchanged ambassadors with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, opened an embassy in Dubai and a consulate in Abu Dhabi and inaugurated a diplomatic mission in Morocco.
The UAE has opened an embassy in Israel and entered a visa waiver program and has so far been visited by 230,000 Israelis, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions and blockages .
Bahrain has appointed an ambassador to Israel and established the world’s first bilateral agreement for COVID-19 vaccine passports.
Commercial airlines have started operating non-stop flights between Israel and cities in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt, and an overflight deal with Saudi Arabia has been reached.
In total, Kushner said, there have been 35 diplomatic deals stemming from the agreements and hundreds of business transactions in the areas of innovation, tourism, sports, culture, scientific air transport, technology and other cooperative efforts.
The most famous achievement of the agreements has been the drastic increase in trade between its members, with Israel’s trade with the members of the agreement increasing by $ 687 million last year and is expected to reach $ 1 billion d ‘by the end of this year, according to Kushner.
“This means that more jobs and opportunities will be available for Jews, Muslims and Christians across the region,” he said.
Kushner said the institute’s role would be to help develop trade and tourism among the members of the agreement and to help standardize to other countries in the region, which would make it a bloc stability.
“The more we strengthen the ties between these countries, the more we will take a tool away from the propagandists and agitators who have used this conflict for decades to turn from their loopholes at home and maintain their grip on power,” he said. “For the first time in decades, the way forward in the Middle East is clear. Let’s do whatever it takes to continue standardization and persuade other countries in the region to join the Abrahamic Accords.
Kushner’s speech was then interrupted by a protester, a woman who ran to the stage with a sign.
“No matter how many countries Israel normalizes its relations with, peace will not come until the Palestinians are free!” she shouted into the audience, who collectively responded by silencing her.
“There is nothing normal about two sets of laws for two groups of people! There is nothing normal about separate roads for Palestinians and for Jews! There is nothing normal about apartheid! she kept on screaming
Security from dignitaries standing along the walls of the ballroom rushed towards the protester, surrounded her, and led her through a door to the side of the ballroom, where, for a short time, she was heard repeatedly shouting: “Free Palestine!” “
“I have to say, I don’t know why people are doing this,” Kushner said. “I think it doesn’t help and frankly there is so much available for Palestinians today and for their leaders if they just wanted to focus on what is best for the people. And that doesn’t help people.
Kushner said there are several other countries looking to join the agreements and host notable attendees to the event in addition to the panelists, which included U.S. and foreign ambassadors, and officials from the Biden and Trump administrations.
“The first round of a very long match”
After Kushner, Greenway moderated a brief panel discussion with three ambassadors: Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan; the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba; and Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United States, Sheikh Abdulla bin Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.
Erdan was the first to speak, asked by Greenway how the agreements could chart a new course for the future of the Middle East.
He said two main changes in the region are reshaping its future, the first being the psychological impact.
He mentioned Maya, who is the first Israeli born in the United Arab Emirates.
“For Maya, the feeling will be in the future, not like the feeling I had when I grew up in the city of Ashkelon – I felt that most of our neighboring countries hated us,” he said. he declares. “Today, for Maya, she will grow up in a totally different reality. It will be normal for her to have close friends from Arab countries, from [opening] businesses, set up business initiatives, you name it. So I think this is a very important change.
The second important impact, according to the panelists, is that it provides tangible evidence of the benefits of peace agreements in the region. This includes booming tourism, despite the pandemic, and flourishing trade where UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touk estimated trade between Israel and the UAE at $ 1,000 billion over the course of the year. of the next decade.
“… It is a peace that everyone can see its fruits quite easily. It is a combination that will make it resilient – a resilient peace and a peace that I can confidently say is irreversible and will certainly inspire other Muslim and Arab countries to follow suit and expand that circle of peace, ”Erdan said. “And honestly, I also hope that the Palestinians – mainly the younger generation, their youth – once they are exposed to the dividends and fruits of this peace, they may stop seeing it as a threat, because we that I have just seen and see it as an opportunity for them also for the future.
Al Otaiba has said that even if his country fails to meet its targets of only achieving $ 750 billion in trade over the next decade, it will be an “acceptable failure.”
“I’m trying to put it all into perspective a year and a month ago, it didn’t exist. And although the numbers look small today, just under a billion, I think there has been the handbrake of COVID and there is a political transition in Israel, there is a transition. politics in the United States, so we’ve been facing headwinds in terms of getting things going in the right direction, ”he said, listing various areas in which the two countries can collaborate, such as l space and climate change. “I think this is only the first set of a very long game, and I think we’re going to make huge progress because we’re looking at it with a common interest.”
Greenway added that trade between Israel and Bahrain has also jumped 300% and that experts predict the overall increase in gross domestic product resulting from the agreements could reach $ 1.5 billion and an additional 2,700 jobs by 2025. .
“It’s bipartisan in Israel, support for the agreements”
Al Khalifa said Bahrain is on a trade route and being open to different cultures and ethnicities is in their DNA. It was noted by Greenway that long before the Abrahamic accords, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa made an official statement calling for religious tolerance and coexistence in October 2017.
The trade deals, he said, offer the country an opportunity to better meet the goal of diversifying its economy away from oil based on a 2008 economic vision that the country hopes to achieve by 2030.
“Israel is known as the nation of startups. We see entrepreneurship increasing in Bahrain. In the past, it was everyone looking for a job in the public service. Today is very different, ”said Al Khalifa. “The Abrahamic Accords provide this opportunity for growth. And we are starting to see it.
Greenway asked the ambassadors how the agreements could strengthen security in the Middle East.
Erdan responded that the Middle East divides into two camps, one made up of moderate Muslim countries keen to normalize relations with Israel and others falling under the malevolent influence of radical Shiite extremists in Iran, along with their proxies. the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hamas and Hezbollah.
Rather than joining the peace accords, he said, Iran has increased its belligerence and moved closer to developing a nuclear weapon despite international condemnation. It also elected an extremist president, Ebrahim Raisi, known for his human rights violations.
Erdan concluded the discussion by acknowledging two Knesset members in the audience who joined in launching the Abraham Accords Caucus: Ruth Wasserman Lande of the Blue and White Party and Ofir Akunis of Likud.
Erdan said the caucus could play a key role in overseeing the government’s efforts to realize the potential of the agreements by removing barriers and obstacles to conducting high-level dialogue and further strengthening ties in parliament, as well as at the local level.
“It is bipartisan in Israel, support for the agreements,” he stressed. “Peace among peoples should always be a bipartisan issue. “