Photo credit: White House / Tia Dufour
This week marks the second anniversary of the signing of the historic Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with Sudan and Morocco soon also joining the circle of peace.
Over the past two years, countries have signed gigantic bilateral trade deals, launched direct flights between countries, and at least one has even signed a memorandum of understanding on security.
UAE-Israel ties reflect warm peace
Earlier this year, Israel signed a historic first-ever trade agreement with the United Arab Emirateswith the stated goal of increasing annual two-way trade to over $10 billion over the next five years.
The agreement signed on May 31, 2022 provides for “immediate or gradual customs exemption on 98% of trade between countries: food, agriculture, cosmetics, medical equipment, medicines, etc.
In 2020, Israel exported $58.8 million in products to the United Arab Emirates, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). Israel’s main exports to the Gulf country were diamonds, telephones and gas turbines.
The UAE exported $120 million to Israel in 2020, with top exports including diamonds, broadcasting equipment and “other oilseeds”, according to the report.
One year later, Israeli exports to the UAE reached $384.47 millionand UAE exports to Israel reached $885 million, according to the Israeli government.
Economic ties between Bahrain and Israel are steadily strengthening
Israeli trade with Bahrain is progressing in the same way.
According a report published by Trading Economics, citing the United Nations COMTRADE database on international tradeBahrain imported $72,000 worth of beauty products, medical instruments and jewelry from Israel in 2020.
In 2021, that volume grew exponentially to $3.81 million. Israel exported precious stones and metals, chemicals, machinery, electrical/electronic equipment, perfumes, cosmetics, plastics, optical and medical equipment, wood, beverages, books, soaps and even more.
Bahraini exports to Israel also reached $3.46 million in 2021. Imported products covered the full range of mineral fuels, metals, edibles, live animals, glass, precious stones and metals, furniture, clothing, machines and much more.
In 2021, a joint military exercise took place in the Red Sea between the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – a prospect that was unthinkable just a few years ago. But maritime security against aggressors like Iran is a common concern.
Although a recent survey by the Washington Institute showed that the public in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates still oppose the warm relations being developed. But their leaders don’t care, and when Israelis return from tourist trips to the two Gulf states, so far no one has reported any negative or unpleasant interactions with members of the Gulf public.
Ties between Sudan and Israel suspended
The third signatory, Sudan, has a long and illustrious history of hostility to the Jewish state that was fundamentally upended by the country’s participation in the Abraham Accords.
Six months after Sudan signed the document, the country quietly abolished a 1958 law prohibiting the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, also prohibiting business with Israeli citizens.
Nevertheless, nearly a year after the agreement was signed, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi said in a maintenance in The National that there was “no sign of normalization with Israel”, noting that the abolition of the anti-Israeli boycott “does not mean that we are considering opening an Israeli embassy in Khartoum”.
Since the country’s government had not yet been established following a military coup, the normalization agreement with Israel has not yet been formally approved by the Sudanese parliament, which was dissolved during the coup and still does not exist.
According Israel Policy Forum, “the process of normalization between Israel and Sudan has continued, although at a much slower pace and less public than that of the other three countries of the Abraham Accords, and without the establishment of formal political ties. Security, agricultural and technological cooperation between the two nations ensued and several meetings were held between the intelligence officials of the two countries. However, apart from a few small meetings between officials, such as the meeting between Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll in Dubai last October, political relations between the two nations have remained relatively stagnant. .
Unlike Sudan, Israeli relations with the Accords’ fourth signatory – Morocco – are lively and warm.
According data from the Israel Export Institute based on information from the Central Bureau of Statistics (depending on the country of origin), in 2021, exports of goods from Israel to Morocco increased by approximately 214% compared to 2020, or approximately $12 million. Products exported included vehicles, aircraft and ships as well as transport equipment, plastics, rubber and their derivatives, industrial chemicals, machinery, electrical equipment, audio and video technologies.
In 2020, Morocco exported $9.76 million worth of goods to Israel, including “other processed vegetables”, processed fish and, surprisingly, beer. That same year, Israel exported $11.2 million worth of products to Morocco, including airplanes, helicopters and spacecraft, ethylene polymers and centrifuges.
In 2021, imports of goods to Israel from Morocco amounted to $57 million, “a decrease of approximately 15% compared to 2020, when imports from Morocco amounted to approximately $67 million. dollars,” said Ohad Cohen, director of the Israel Foreign Trade Administration. Moroccan exports to Israel included automotive accessories, textiles and textile products, olives, canned fish and, curiously, pasta.
The figures above differ from those of the United Nations COMTRADE database on international tradewhich indicate that goods imported into Israel from Morocco reached $117.11 million last year.
According to the UN COMTRADE database, Israeli exports to Morocco in 2021 reached $30.72 million.
Economic ties between Israel and Morocco are growing; Last March, a delegation from Rabat comprising some 80 top Moroccan business leaders visited the Jewish state to discuss next steps.
“Morocco and Israel, two of the most prosperous and dynamic economies in their regions, today share a clear and strong strategic vision to increase the volume of trade and investment, improve our mutual approach to markets and move us towards shared social and economic growthsaid Chakib ALJ, president of the General Council of Moroccan Factories at the conference.
“The bilateral partnership has led to unprecedented developments in sectors of mutual interest, such as tourism, health, agriculture, water, industry, education and technology, and the objective is to increase trading to $500 million,” he said.
Of all the signatories to the Abraham Accords, Israel enjoys the strongest security ties with Morocco.
In November 2021, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding cementing military and defense cooperation between their two defense establishments.
In February 2022, the Globes The economic news site reported that Israel Aerospace Industries had signed a $500 million contract to sell the Barak air and missile defense system to Morocco, although the sale was not confirmed by either by the other country, nor by society.
In July 2022, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi traveled to Morocco for a three-day visit to meet Moroccan Defense Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi, the head of the Royal Armed Forces Belkhir El-Farouk and other defense and security officials. Among other issues, the talks aimed to deepen military and intelligence cooperation between the two nations.
Accords of Abraham Tourism
Nothing points to peace quite like strong tourism – the sight of Israelis flying directly to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco – and their citizens flying directly to the Jewish state.
Non-stop flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai resumed last March after a brief dispute over security arrangements at the United Arab Emirates airport in Dubai.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed in October 2020 to allow 28 weekly flights between the two countries, in addition to 10 weekly cargo flights. Authorizations for charter flights between the United Arab Emirates and Israel’s Ramon airport near Eilat are unlimited.
Since June, Emirates, El Al Airlines, Etihad, Gulf Air, Royal Jordanian, Turkish Airlines and many more have been flying round trips on direct routes from Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Bahrain’s national flag carrier Gulf Air’s first direct flight arrived from Manama at Ben Gurion International Airport a year ago – in September 2021.
“We are delighted to announce the launch of our Bahrain-Tel Aviv route as part of the historic Bahraini-Israeli relationship,” said Captain Waleed Al-Alawi, acting CEO of Gulf Air.
“As the flag carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, we are very proud to support our leaders and the Kingdom in their role of preserving peace and prosperity in the region. We hope this is just the beginning of developing new opportunities.
Flights depart from Tel Aviv to Manama three times a week at present, with routes operated by Gulf Air, El Al Airlines, EgyptAir, Emirates, Etihad, Turkish Airlines, Fly Dubai and more.
In July 2021, Israel’s national flag carrier, El Al Airlines, was joined by the smaller Israir to launch direct flights to Marrakech, Morocco.
Currently there are flights from Tel Aviv to Marrakech, Tanier, Rabat, Agadir, Fez, Casablanca and more. Routes are operated by Royal Air Maroc, El Al Airlines, Emirates, Turkish Airlines and more.
Tourism figures have not yet been calculated.