The second year of the Abraham Accords will be remembered as the most important to building the foundations of peace and economic integration of the new Middle East.
This is the year in which the excitement, novelty and promise of the Accords gave way to the practicalities of integrating Israel into the business, cultural and political fabric of the region: Trade agreements, cultural exchanges, joint ventures, investment initiatives, tax protocols, civil society engagement and literally hundreds of bilateral and multilateral agreements between Emirati, Moroccan, and Bahraini organizations – private and public – and their Israeli counterparts.
Trade between the UAE and Israel, the focus of the UAE-Israel Business Council (UIBC) which we founded, is perhaps the best indicator of where this burgeoning relationship is heading. Bilateral trade will near $3 billion in 2022, an enormous increase over the $50m in annual trade before the Accords were signed on the White House lawn, and more than double the figure in 2021. More than 500 Israeli businesses are operating in and through the UAE, investing in local personnel, capabilities and operations, while leveraging the UAE as a platform to extend their commercial ties throughout the greater Middle East, South Asia, the Indian subcontinent and beyond. Technology, agriculture, fintech, diamonds and renewables – Israel’s core strengths – will drive this integration.
The blossoming of Israeli-Emirati ties is felt at all levels of government and the private sector – from the UAE’s leading sovereign funds investing in Israel’s unparalleled technology sector to Israeli companies establishing operations across Abu Dhabi and Dubai to the 500,000 Israeli tourists visiting the UAE on 70 weekly flights between the countries. More than 6,000 individuals, companies and professionals have joined the UIBC, and 2,000 Israelis and Emiratis have participated in our various events, webinars, conferences and delegations. This week His Excellency Ahmed Al Zaabi and His Excellency Ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja rang the opening bell at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, a telling symbol of how deep these ties have become.
The impact of the Abraham Accords, with the UAE as its most vital component, goes well beyond Israel’s engagement with the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain and Sudan. Relations with Egypt and Jordan have been another important beneficiary. Measured in business terms, Jordan and Egypt have embraced the Accords with full force, with trade doubling since 2020. As Israelis by the thousands have been warmly welcomed to the UAE, they have begun to forge links with businesspeople across the region – from Iraq to Pakistan to Saudi Arabia and beyond. Over time, the UAE will become the pillar of Israeli commercial ties with its East, with hundreds of Israeli businesses operating from the UAE conducting trade with countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
But trade alone, while an important facilitator, is not the only measure by which ties are measured. Cultural programs, environmental cooperation, co-existence initiatives, scientific exchange, and countless agreements and interactions among the people of Israel and the UAE are redefining the Middle East. The UIBC has hosted dozens of events on topics ranging from cybersecurity to food security to renewables and environmental cooperation. Solving these challenges together, drawing on our unique resources, will be the most meaningful fruits of our warm peace.
As we mark the second anniversary of our special relationship, a true partnership embraced by our people and leadership, we are more confident than ever that this is only the beginning of what will become an unbreakable bond between our nations. 2022 will be remembered as the foundational year in Israeli-Emirati ties, a historic milestone in the realization of the vision of the Abraham Accords, and the strongest indicator of what is to come.