Israel and the Gulf: Is this peace or simply prosperity?

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Giovanni Sale, SJ

 Giovanni Sale, SJ / Politics / 9 November 2020


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A United Arab Emirates official in long flowing robes, white headdress firmly in place and face covered with a Covid-19 mask, rubbed elbows with the Israeli National Security Advisor, dressed in a smart suit, his head covered with a large Jewish skullcap and his features also obscured by a Covid mask. The scene took place on September 1, 2020, as the first official Israeli delegation visiting Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, flew home on a direct flight to Tel Aviv.

This scene symbolized what had been set in motion following the announcement on August 13, 2020, by U.S. President Donald Trump, that the UAE and Israel would establish full diplomatic relations. Just a few weeks later, on September 11, 2020, exactly 19 years after the Al-Qaeda bombings of the Twin Towers in New York, it was announced that the Kingdom of Bahrain was also ready to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

On September 15, 2020, on the lawns of the White House in Washington DC, the beaming godfather of the process, Trump, welcomed his Israeli, UAE and Bahraini guests as together they signed a series of agreements titled the “Abraham Accords.” They open with a breathtaking commitment. “We, the undersigned, recognize the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world, based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom.”

It seemed to some that a new age was dawning as these sons of Isaac and Ishmael gathered together again under the tent of Patriarch Abraham. The document signed by Israel and the UAE declared: “The parties undertake to foster mutual understanding, respect, co-existence and a culture of peace between their societies in the spirit of their common ancestor, Abraham.” Jews and Muslims, convened by a U.S. President, were finally sitting down together to build a new Middle East. Rumors were rife that other Muslim countries were considering joining the historic process: Oman, Qatar, Kuwait (other Gulf kingdoms and principalities) and perhaps important countries such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Morocco.

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