Updated: Sep 22
In these challenging times, it is natural to seek out beacons of hope and optimism. Today, we can focus on a beacon, lighting the path to a better future in West Asia. A year ago, Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain signed the United States (US)-brokered peace and normalisation agreements known as the Abraham Accords.
On hearing about these agreements, my thoughts immediately went to how much potential they hold for both our Israeli and Indian friends, since India has so many business connections with the UAE that can also include Israel.
The September 15, 2020 ceremony on the White House lawn was a historic event with the potential to transform West Asia. Now, we celebrate the Accords themselves along with the remarkable achievements accomplished in just a year, even under difficult Covid-19 pandemic conditions.
For years, Israel worked behind the scenes to build clandestine diplomatic and economic relations with other moderate States in the region. It took wisdom to ultimately recognise that Israel is an integral and permanent part of West Asia, with much to contribute to its stability and prosperity. It took vision to prioritise the future and see what connects the people of the region.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett drove home the importance of this paradigm shift in a phone call with UAE crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, when he said that the UAE’s attitude towards Israel “was an important change” and “an inspiration to other countries and leaders in the region”.
The Accords are strengthening bonds between nations and people. Since the first direct flight between Tel Aviv and Dubai last November, over 200,000 Israeli tourists and businesspeople have visited the UAE and Bahrain, connecting people and cultures like never before. Israel will also present a national pavilion at the upcoming World Expo in Dubai, in October. We are incredibly excited by the proximity of the Israeli pavilion to the Indian one, which will enable shared activities bringing together Israelis and Indians in Dubai.
The agreements created exciting opportunities for regional and multinational cooperation in energy, sustainability, tourism, security, and much more. Thirty-four agreements are currently underway between Israel and the UAE, with 14 already signed on topics ranging from cooperation in the fields of health and the environment to collaboration in agriculture. Israel is working with Bahrain on 21 agreements, having already signed 12, including in economy, tourism, and communications.
Over the past year, we have already seen the beginning of the commercial collaboration between companies in the region and Indian and Israeli companies, both in trade organisations such as the new Chamber of Commerce, the International Federation of Indo-Israel Chambers of Commerce, bringing together Indian, Israeli and Emirate businesspeople, and deals such as the Ecopia deal, combining Israeli technology, Indian manufacturing capacity, and Emirate funding. We believe that the trilateral trade between the countries has the potential of reaching $110 billion by 2030, and that the entire region, if not the world, will benefit.
Israel aspires to continue the regional development that started with the Abraham Accords and to expand the circle of peace and normalisation. Indeed, Israel believes that it can bring about a change in the conflict and establish peaceful coexistence with its most immediate neighbours, the Palestinians, in the spirit of the Accords. After all, peace begets peace. Moreover, the normalisation process serves to effectively consolidate moderate forces in the region in the face of shared threats, providing a counterbalance to the Iranian menace.
The courageous steps taken represent a decision to build a future together that will benefit all of our people. India, too, will benefit from this vision of a shared future. The steps taken so far have lit the path to a new and hopeful reality in West Asia — one that will improve the welfare of its population and bring peace, security and prosperity to all.
Rony Yedidia Clein is charge d’affaires (acting ambassador), Embassy of Israel
The OpEd above has been published in the Hindustan Times on 15th September 2021.