The Abraham Accords Dream is Coming True

There are many measures by which the success of the Abraham Accords can be determined. The volume of trade, the number of tourists, the extent of academic collaboration, and so on. As the third year since the signing of the treaties winds down, it is safe to say that by all indicators, the relationships have taken off. Trade between Israel and Accords countries has been growing exponentially, mutual investments have taken place, and numerous cultural and academic delegations have convened.

Much (if not too much) has been said about the high expectations that followed the announcement of normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – as well as the revival of Israel’s relations with Morocco. ‘Disappointment’ in the supposed slow pace of the Accords’ materialization can be explained by an overestimated anticipated speed of developments, and this seems less relevant now as we look back at the volume of activities this past year.

In March 2023, the first Bahrain-Israel business conference, Connect2Innovate, took place in Manama. Over 600 people attended, the majority from Bahrain’s business community. For many Bahrainis, it was the first time they met Israelis in person. But it is not just the first engagement that is newsworthy: several business deals and partnerships were announced during and following the conference.

Over the last 12 months, visits to Israel by the heads of the Emirati free zones, and more importantly, registration of Israeli companies at ADGM, DIFC, and DMCC, have increased. This shows that Israeli businesses are making good use of the benefits that the free zones offer and are investing in opening offices in the UAE.

Israeli-Moroccan partnerships have also multiplied in ag-tech, energy, water, and more, accompanied by reciprocated investments. While the economic exchange is increasing at a quick and steady pace, there is still much more potential for growth. But we are on a great track.

While all the above is, without a doubt, positive and encouraging, it is not the end of the story. The lens through which the Accords need to be viewed must recognize the foundations that have been laid, the trajectory that the relations have been growing on, and the potential that is being realized. In this context, the Abraham Accords can already be regarded as a success.

Considering the lack of official connections between these countries for over seven decades, accompanied by mistrust and misconceptions, what has been accomplished so far is quite remarkable. The bottom line – deals, mutual investments, and trade – speaks for itself. And this is just the surface. Underneath, real people-to-people connections are being made. Learning each other’s challenges, strengths, and areas for growth – and more importantly how to live with them – are vital steps to cementing ties to form long-term partnerships.

Essentially, we have identified the commonalities and complementarities of each stakeholder. We understand not just what the shared challenges are but have discussed and actually started to implement partnerships that address them. Alongside the development of these new diplomatic relations, we are witnessing some of the most pressing issues of our time: the implications of climate change, which are increasingly felt; coping with a global pandemic; the international effects of regional conflicts, for example how the war in Ukraine impacted food security and migration trends in other counties…

The only way to tackle these and other problems is through collaboration, and for collaboration to succeed it must be based on innovation. The MENA region is both highly vulnerable to global challenges and a growing and expanding innovation hub, making it the natural breeding ground for technological solutions to the issues of our time. Cross-border partnerships are already underway between governments, businesses, and civil society, and these pave the way to creating these solutions. Emirati investments in Israeli ag-tech companies, Israeli water companies piloting in Bahrain, and collaborations between climate tech companies from Morocco and Israel, are just a few examples of how this once unattainable dream is becoming a reality.

The new geopolitical reality is made possible by the active participation of the United States and greater American business engagement in this trilateral partnership is essential for its advancement. Additionally, these new ties to be resilient and long-lasting, and regional partnership needs to expand to more countries. Nations that Israel does not yet have relations with and, no less important, those with whom Israel has had a peace agreement for many years, Egypt and Jordan, are no longer outliers. The Abraham Accords have created the conditions for these countries to expand and deepen their relations with Israel.

As we celebrate the third anniversary of the Abraham Accords, much tangible and meaningful progress has been made. While there is still more to be achieved, we should be proud of the momentum we have generated over the past three years.

Yariv Becher is Vice President of Innovation Diplomacy at Start-Up Nation Central and a former commercial attaché on behalf of Israel’s Ministry of Economy, helping Israeli technology companies penetrate foreign markets.

Article originally published on JNS (Sept. 6, 2023)

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