Jared Kushner’s success in facilitating the United Arab Emirates-Israel normalization accord is an undeniable piece of good news in a region that produces a steady flow of bad. Indeed, over time, it may well lead to warmer ties between Israel and the UAE than currently exist between Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.
But there’s no doubt the Kushner trip to the UAE on Monday — together with an Israeli delegation — is as much about politics and the narrow interests of the three key players as it is about peace. Whether it becomes more than that will depend on how many Arab states follow the UAE’s lead and how Israel deals with an unresolved Palestinian problem.
The “Abraham accords”
After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday, Kushner and the U.S. delegation, which included NSA Robert O’Brien, landed in the Abu Dhabi on Monday on an El Al flight carrying the Israeli delegation, the first such open Israeli commercial flight in history. The aircraft’s route also apparently took it over Saudi Arabia — another first for an Israeli commercial airliner.
The so-called Abraham accords (an apparent reference to the common Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) was announced on Aug. 13 accord and if implemented will be the first normalization of relations with Israel since the peace treaties with Jordan in 1994 and Egypt in 1979.
Unlike Egypt and Jordan who fought a total of four wars with Israel, the Israel-UAE accord won’t have the same strategic or regional impact as peace treaties to end conflict between adversaries. But paradoxically because neither Israel nor the UAE were ever bitter enemies, relations could become much warmer faster. The two have been conducting discreet exchanges on intelligence and security for years. And business deals too. Israel’s Economy Ministry estimates that exports to the UAE could increase from an annual $300,000 to $300 million-$500 million, and for annual UAE investment in Israel to reach $350 million.