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Understanding the Abraham Accord

Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, U.S. President's senior adviser Jared Kushner and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of United Arab Emirates Anwar Gargash hold a meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates August 31, 2020.


On 13 August 2020, Israel and UAE made a historic breakthrough in their diplomatic relationship by agreeing to the Abraham Accord. The deal is expected to be signed in the White House in early September. But this has yet to answer questions about the future where UAE would become the only third Arab country to recognise Israel and the first Persian Gulf country to do so. The other two Arab countries are Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994). 

What is the Abraham Accord?

The Abraham Accord is named after Abraham, in honour of the Abrahamic religions, that is, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The deal gives vision and courage to both the countries for  new opportunities that could unlock great potential in the region. For years in the past, UAE and Israel have had under-the-table contacts, which can now be operated  openly from now. The deal could lead to stronger economic, political and cultural ties between the countries’ governments and their people.

A Brief Historical Overview of Israel

Let us first try to understand why there are so many intricacies in maintaining diplomatic ties with Israel. In the pre-biblical times,the area was a part of the Roman Empire and, later, the Byzantine Empire before falling under the control of the fledgling Islamic caliphate in the 7th century CE. Although the object of dispute during the crusades, the region, generally known as Palestine, remained under the hands of successive Islamic dynasties until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, when it was placed under British mandate from the League of Nations. 

Even before the mandate, the desire for a Jewish homeland prompted a small number of Jews to immigrate to Palestine. The migrations grew dramatically during the second quarter of the 20th century with the increased persecution of Jews worldwide and subsequent Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany. This vast influx of Jewish immigrants into the region, however, caused tension with the native Palestinian Arabs, and violence flared between the two groups leading up to the United Nations plan to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab sectors and Israel’s ensuing declaration of statehood on May 14, 1948. Israel fought a series of wars against neighbouring Arab states during the next 35 years, which have resulted in ongoing disputes over territory and the status of refugees. 

Despite growing tensions, however, Israel concluded peace treaties with several neighbouring Arab states like Jordan and Egypt during the final quarter of the 20th century. As of August 2020, 163 of the 193 UN member states recognize Israel. Those who don’t include a majority of the members of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Others nations such as Bhutan, Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela also do not recognise Israel. 

A map showing the stand of different countries with respect to recognition of Israel. (Source - Wikimedia Commons)

The above map shows the recognition of Israel worldwide. The countries in green recognise Israel; red denotes those that have cut relations with Israel; brown denotes those that have withdrawn recognition; and grey marks the countries that never recognised Israel.

What Have Been the Reactions to the Deal?

With UAE coming upfront to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, the deal brings an ample amount of opportunities for both countries. In an interview with CNBC, Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, UAE, stated that “United Arab Emirates’ peace deal with Israel is a “win-win solution” that takes away the “looming threat” of annexation in the West Bank”. Israel  agreed to delay plans for annexing parts of the West Bank, but such plans “remain on the table”. 

Though it might be a historic breakthrough for them, different countries have shown different reactions to the Accord. Some have considered it a triumph and while others have shown skepticism about it. 

A map showing international reaction to the Abraham Accord. (Source- Wikimedia Commons)

In the above map, the countries in green are those in support of the deal including China, USA, India and Australia, while the red denotes countries against it. The grey denotes the countries with no public position. The yellow countries are those which have maintained a neutral stand on the issue. 

The stand of Palestine is the one which needs to be contemplated upon. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Hanan Ashrawi, wrote on Twitter, "Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it's been doing to Palestine illegally and persistently since the beginning of the occupation." In a interview with the Anadolu Agency, the Fatah, a Palestinian nationalist social democratic party, accused the UAE of "flouting its national, religious and humanitarian duties" toward the Palestinian people, and alongside Hamas,  called it a "treacherous stab in the back of the Palestinian people and obliteration of the [Palestinian]cause".