Abraham Accords

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Context: Israel and two Arab Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have formally and publicly established diplomatic relations. The White House has called the agreements “The Abraham Accords” The U.A.E. and Bahrain are the third and fourth Arab countries to open diplomatic relations with Israel; Egypt and Jordan were the first two.

Relevance:
Prelims: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains: GS II- International Relations, Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s Interests.

Historical Background
  • The first president of the UAE referred to Israel as “the enemy” of the Arab countries.
  • Before the official recognition of Israel, the UAE did not allow Israeli citizens or those suspected of being Israeli citizens entry into the UAE, including Israeli passport holders, except for transit.
  • The UAE had a history of denying entry to Israelis, including for sport. In addition, UAE athletes were prohibited from taking part in events in Israel as well as competing against Israeli athletes in any circumstances.
  • Curbing the influence of Iran in the region was the convergence point for both the UAE and Israel. Thus both countries covertly started to improve relations.
  • Uzi Landau became the first Israeli minister to visit Abu Dhabi in 2010 to attend a renewal energy conference.
  • After 2011, the UAE and Israel actively participated together on the Egyptian government's side against the Sinai insurgency.
  • In August 2016, pilots from both the Israel Air Force and the UAE Air Force participated in a joint Red Flag training exercise in the United States.
  • In September 2019, the Abu Dhabi authorities announced that they would open a synagogue as part of the interfaith compound by 2022.
The Agreement
  • As per the agreements, the UAE and Bahrain will establish:
    1. Embassies and exchange ambassadors.
    2. Collaboration with Israel on a range of sectors, including tourism, trade, business, healthcare and security.
  • The Abraham Accords also open the door for Muslims around the world to visit the historic sites in Israel including Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam.
  • Israel agreed to suspend plans for annexing parts of the West Bank. 
Need for the Agreement

Strategic:

  • Israel, the UAE and Bahrain share the common threat perception of Iran.


Economic: 

  • UAE and Bahrain are more modern societies which share the overarching and immediate priority of post-pandemic economic resuscitation.


Political:

  • Donald Trump can sell this as a victory for his Middle East policy in the upcoming presidential elections.
  • UAE generates goodwill in the U.S which was eroded due to the Yemen War.
  • The sense of isolation that Israelis feel in their own neighbourhood may also be partially lifted.
Scope

A new chapter in the ties: 

  • Full diplomatic ties will be established between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain which will have a positive impact on the entire region.


Tolerance:

  • It signals, a desire to shift the narrative from religious conflict to tolerance.


Trade:

  • Israel has niche strengths in defence, security and surveillance equipment, arid farming, solar power, horticultural products, high-tech, gem and jewellery, and pharmaceuticals.


Career Opportunities:

  • Israeli Arabs may find career opportunities to bridge the cultural divide. Israel is known as the start-up nation and its stakeholders could easily fit in the various duty-free incubators in the UAE.


The catalyst of a Change:

  • This new push for normalization will aid the cause of Israeli-Palestinian compromise. Other gulf states in the region like Oman Saudi Arab could follow suit and sign similar agreements with Israel.

Challenges

Palestinian issues ignored:

  • Unlike the past two Arab-Israeli peace agreements, Palestinians do not figure prominently in the current one.


Geopolitical implications of the deal:

  • Hamas is calling it a “stabbing in the back”
  • The deal could sharpen the tripolar contest that is already shaping west Asia's politics.
  • The Saudi bloc, consisting of Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and others, see their interests being aligned with that of the U.S. and Israel and their support for Palestine is dwindling. 
  • Turkey and Iran emerge as the strongest supporters of the Palestinians in the Muslim world.
  • Shia-Sunni rifts in the region may get wide and violent. 
Indian Perspective

Geopolitics:

  • Geopolitically, India has welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel, calling both its strategic partners. 


Diaspora:
 

  • India has stronger, multifaceted and growing socioeconomic engagements with Israel and the Gulf countries. With over eight million Indian diasporas in the Gulf remitting annually nearly $50 billion, annual merchandise trade of over $150 billion.


Economic Challenges: 

  • Israeli foray into the Gulf has the potential to disrupt the existing politico-economic architecture that India has carefully built with the GCC states. 
  • India has acquired a large and rewarding regional footprint, particularly as the preferred source of manpower, food products, pharmaceuticals, gem and jewellery, light engineering items, etc. This position could be challenged by Israel which has niche strength in defence, security, solar power, horticulture etc.


India’s Balancing Act:

  • The new accord widens the moderate constituency for peaceful resolution of the Palestine dispute, easing India’s diplomatic balancing act.


A new era of Proxy War:

  • The possibility of the southern Gulf becoming the new arena of the proxy war between Iran and Israel cannot be ruled out, particularly in Shia pockets. India would have to be on its guard to monitor such conflicts.


India–Iran Relations impacted:

  • For decades, one of the main sources of instability in West Asia has been the cold war between Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia). This accord may make the rift wider and more violent, thus testing India-Iran relations.

Way Forward:

  • The confrontational approach in the Middle East seems to have delivered less. The Palestinians themselves in Gaza and Ramallah remain divided with differing political allegiances confronted by Israeli intransigence. Moreover, the changing geopolitical dynamic and US role in the region have yielded a fresh collaborative approach in the hope that it may also help in resolving the Palestinian issue.
  • In the evolving scenario, there may be scope for a profitable trilateral synergy for India, but India cannot take its preponderance as a given. It needs to keep its powder as dry as the shifting sands of the Empty Quarter.



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