- Mohamed Abdulkahar
What Are the Abraham Accords and Why Are They So Significant?
Updated: Dec 21, 2021
The Abraham Accords are a set of agreements where the UAE, Bahrain, and Israel established open diplomatic relations under the United States’ supervision. They were signed at the White House, and in then, former President of the United States, Donald Trump, stated that there would be “peace in the Middle East” as a result of these accords.
So, when were they signed, how did they come about, why are they significant, and will we see other countries join the accords? In this guide, we will answer these questions.
On September 15, 2020, the Abraham Accords were signed by the four nations and were hailed as “the deal of the century”. In addition to establishing peace in the Middle East, the purpose of the deal was to encourage interfaith dialogue, religious freedom, and cultural exchange. Although the UAE and Bahrain were the first Arab countries to sign the accords, Egypt was the first Arab state to normalise their relations with Israel back in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994. The Abraham Accords were a product of Arab states’, particularly some Gulf states’, shift in priorities.
Over the last decade, several Gulf states have regarded Iran as a problematic nation. They see Iran as a threat. This led them to side with Israel to create an alliance against the Shiite-majority nation. Iran was one of the few countries opposing the Accords alongside Turkey and Kuwait, accusing Arab nations involved of the “betrayal of Palestinians and Islamic holy sites”.
In addition to Iran, another party affected by the agreement are the Palestinians. At first, both secular and Islamist Palestinian groups condemned the normalisation of the Arab-Israeli relations. However, the leader of the secular wing Mahmoud Abbas, who receives funding from Gulf countries, later toned down his party’s stance on the matter. On the other hand, the Islamist wing, Hamas, which is supported by Iran, kept criticising the Accords. The general Palestinian population felt they were left behind as they thought the deal didn’t take them into consideration.
Morocco-based lawyer and IBA officer of the Arab Regional Forum Nesrine Roudane stated that “Palestinians were not completely absent.” The agreements led to the suspension of Israel’s plans to annex the Jordan Valley and the West Bank settlements. However, existing Israeli settlements in the West Bank still exist, and will likely continue to expand. In addition, Palestinians’ right to self-determination still remains an issue that the Accords have not resolved.
The significance of the Abraham Accords
The Middle East is a region that has been harbouring issues that have grown more complicated following the creation of Israel after World War II. Although it was created for displaced Jews to find a home, the region had already become a home to a large number of Arab Muslims. The Anti-Defamation League surveyed over half of the world population about anti-Semitism and found that 74% of the Middle East harbours anti-Semitic views. This large population regards the creation of Israel as “an extension of Western imperialism” and “Jewish conspiracy”
The Accords don’t represent the population’s change of heart regarding their sentiments towards Israel. They simply represent a political move that was motivated by a shift of interests by several nations in the region. Although the Accords were signed by Emirati and Bahraini government representatives, Emirati citizens opposed the normalisation, calling it “treason”. In Bahrain, the population remained quiet in fear of being oppressed for holding views different from the government.
Like Iran, Turkey affirmed their stance against the treaty in support of the Palestinians, and Kuwait condemned the accords altogether. Although it’s still hard to say what the final outcome of the treaty will be, the UAE and Bahrain appear to be the 'weak links' in the Sunni relations, making their Sunni alliance more unstable than before.
Will other Nations join the Accords?
Currently, Sudan and Morocco have already signed the accords. However, it’s still difficult to know who will sign the agreement next. It was speculated that Saudi Arabia would have been next in line, but according to Adedayo Bolaji-Adio from the Economist Intelligence Unit, it would be “impossible” under the current Saudi king. He also speculated that Oman could be next, thinking the “Omanis would like to see the reaction from the Arab world to these deals", but again, it’s still too soon to tell.
Other interesting parties include Jordan and Egypt who have had peace deals with Israel for years. However, Israel was never seen in a positive light among these two nations’ general population.
Therefore, we will have to wait and see how this plays out among Arab nations in order to understand the full impact of these accords. There is an argument that these agreements have not had the positive impact many were hoping for as we are still seeing unrest across the region. Yet, despite this, countries once in conflict with one another signing peace treaties is, without doubt, a positive step forward.
For more information on this topic, head over to our section on Foreign Affairs.