7 Apr 2021


Then, to the sounds of the bearer natous horns and the bright pools, the four men moved to a long table in front of the South Portico to sign three sets of agreements in front of a seated audience that estimated the White House at 800 people, many of whom were not wearing masks. The agreements are the first such agreements between Israel and an Arab state since 1994, when the Jewish state established diplomatic relations with Jordan. They are also a further step towards the formation of a de facto alliance between Israel and the Sunni Arab monarchies of the Gulf against their common enemy, Shiite Iran. Pressure on Iran was a central focus of Trump`s foreign policy, and Trump officials worked to build a common regional front against Tehran, in which Saudi Arabia played an important role. The regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran has played a role in this diplomacy – a decades-old feud, exacerbated by religious disputes, with Iran being a predominantly Shiite Muslim power and Saudi Arabia considers itself the leading Sunni Muslim power. The Emiratis have demonstrated their seriousness and have taken steps to deepen their relations with Israel. They have concluded a medical research and development agreement under COVID-19, signed an Israeli player for Dubai`s Al-Nasr football team, concluded a cooperation agreement on film and television, which provides for the creation of a regional film festival, sends direct flights to Tel Aviv and authorizes open visits by Israeli journalists. Interest in expanding tourism is high, but it will depend on whether Israel will lift its coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Gargash said that such mutual exchanges would link the two countries and would end the “state of war” between them. This dramatic break with the old pan-Arab consensus reflects a change in the rapprochement of the Gulf States on the Palestinian issue.

The establishment of formal relations is a modest diplomatic achievement. But a look at the Arab-Israeli past suggests that, at least on the basis of what we know so far, the agreements between Bahrain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates do not meet the norms for upsetting events of history.

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