Israel and the United Arab Emirates have reached a deal to normalise relations, with Israel agreeing to suspend its controversial plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
In a surprise statement by US President Donald Trump, who helped broker it, the countries called the accord “historic” and a breakthrough toward peace.
The UAE will be only the third Arab country — and the first in the Gulf — to recognise Israel. Though both Israel and the UAE have had backroom contacts in recent years, establishment of diplomatic relationships would be a game changer. There will be formal diplomatic and business contacts, flight services will be launched and both countries could cooperate more directly in regional diplomacy. Moreover, as Saudi Arabia is the de facto leader of the Gulf Sunni kingdoms, it can be assumed that the deal was signed with Saudi blessings. So, the possibility of more Gulf countries following suit cannot be ruled out.
The agreement will include establishing embassies and exchanging ambassadors, investments into the Israeli economy, trade, direct flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi, an investment in Israeli efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine and cooperation in matters of energy and water. An important element of the deal for the UAE is the expectation that its citizens would be able to visit the Al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem.
A joint statement from the United States, Israel and the UAE said that “this historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region.”
With the announcement of the deal, the UAE becomes the first country in the Gulf to open diplomatic ties with Israel. After Egypt and Jordan, it is also only the third Arab state to normalise such ties.
The joint statement said delegations from the UAE and Israel will “meet in the coming weeks” to sign bilateral agreements on investment, tourism, telecoms, security, healthcare, culture, the establishment of embassies and other areas of “mutual benefit”.
The Israel-UAE agreement will also pave the way for a so-called Strategic Middle East Agenda, according to the joint statement, which will “expand diplomatic, trade and security cooperation” in the region.
“Along with the US, Israel and the UAE share a similar outlook regarding the threats and opportunities in the region, as well as a shared commitment to promoting stability through diplomatic engagement, increased economic integration, and closer security coordination,” the document said.
Israel and UAE will “immediately expand and accelerate cooperation regarding the treatment of and the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus,” the joint statement said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal “full, formal peace” with “one of the strongest countries in the world.”
“Together we can bring a wonderful future. It is an incomparably exciting moment,” Netanyahu said. “I have the great privilege to make the third peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country, the UAE.”