Israel, United Arab Emirates Announce Historic Peace Treaty

Israeli PM Netanyahu spoke by telephone with US President Donald Trump and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on historic peace treaty day. Photo courtesy of Kobi Gideon (Israeli GPO)

In a stunning breakthrough, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday announced they had reached a full peace treaty that will see the two Middle East nations sign agreements on direct flights, tourism, opening embassies and more. The peace accord—Israel’s first with an Arab nation since the 1994 deal with Jordan—will result in the full normalization of ties between the countries, according to a joint statement by the UAE, Israel and the United States, which helped broker the deal. More peace deals between Israel and Arab nations could be on the horizon as well, according to statements from Israeli and US leaders.

In their share of the arrangement, Israel will “will suspend declaring sovereignty” over Judea and Samaria and “focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world,” according to the joint statement, published to the White House website. This was done at the request of US President Donald Trump with support from the UAE.

Declaring sovereignty over the Jewish communities in the Biblical heartland had been a campaign promise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Israel had already missed his original timeframe of July for such a move. It’s unclear if the sovereignty steps were set aside in order to reach the deal with the UAE, or if other diplomatic pressures were the reason Israel initially deferred on sovereignty.

Netanyahu sounded triumphant and hopeful in his comments about the UAE peace accord. “Today we usher in a new era of peace between Israel and the Arab world,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office. “…In recent years, Israel under my leadership has made advancements in ties with such countries as Sudan, Oman, Bahrain and other nations in the Gulf. I have reason to be very optimistic that today’s announcement with the UAE will be followed by more Arab nations joining our region’s circle of peace.”

US President Trump, in comments to the press posted to the White House website, said, “By uniting two of America’s closest and most capable partners in the region—something which said could not be done—this deal is a significant step towards building a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous Middle East.

“Now that the ice has been broken, I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead.”

Trump and others in his administration touted other benefits to the deal, including opportunity for UAE Muslims to visit religious sites in Israel, and more bad news for Iran.

In comments included in the press briefing, outgoing U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said, “What we see today is a new Middle East. The trend lines are very different today. And we see the future is very much in the Gulf and with Israel, and the past is with the Iranian regime. It clings to power on the basis of brute force; it is facing a crisis of legitimacy and credibility with its own people.”

The UAE-Israel deal was reached without the publicized intrigue and negotiations through the media that have highlighted—and in some cases plagued—previous attempts at Middle East deals. Parsing the comments from Israel, it appears the deal was not only forged in secret, but helped along by secret agents.

In a separate press release, Netanyahu thanked Mossad Director Yossi Cohen for the spy agency’s efforts “in developing the ties with the Gulf states over the years, which assisted in bringing the peace treaty to fruition.”

Netanyahu, in his broader statement on the peace deal, noted the efforts he has taken with potential partners in the region. “I’ve always believed that we could establish peace with the Arab world and I have been working towards that lofty goal for decades,” said Netanyahu. “You may not know it, but I’ve been doing it all the time in meetings that are publicized and in many that are not. In Washington, in the Middle East, in daylight and in nighttime.”

The peace deal is ultimately part of the Trump Administration’s broader Middle East peace efforts. Jared Kushner, a senior advisor to President Trump and a key player in the peace process, said in the press briefing comments published to the White House website that the President encouraged them to “take an untraditional approach. You can’t solve problems that have gone unsolved by doing it the same way that people before you have tried and failed.”

Said Kushner, “The President takes untraditional approaches. He does things in different ways, but he uses common sense and he tries to unite people by focusing on common interests, as opposed to allowing them to focus on their common grievances.”

Kushner said the peace deal also points to a brighter future in the Middle East. “I would like to say to the people of the region—Muslims, Jews, Christians—that this does give hope that the problems of the past do not condemn you to a future with conflict,” said Kushner. “There is a lot of hope and a lot of potential, and this will benefit you and this will also benefit people here in America.”

Not everyone was happy about the deal. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke by phone with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Monday to share their joint rejection of the UAE-Israel peace accord, according to the WAFA News Agency. A separate WAFA report said that the Palestinians had even summoned their Ambassador to the UAE over the arrangement.

Despite the shift away from declaring sovereignty by Israel, the peace accord with the UAE becomes the first with an Arab people in which Israel has not had to formally relinquish territory as part of the deal.

The deal was nicknamed the Abraham Accord due to the importance of the Biblical father figure for Jews, Muslims and Christians. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in the White House-published press briefing said that “no person better symbolizes the potential for unity among all these three great faiths than Abraham.”

Netanyahu sees the potential for that unity as well.

“Israel and the UAE are two of the most advanced countries in the world,” said Netanyahu. ‘Together, we will transform the region and forge an even better future for our people. This is a future of peace, a future of security and a future of prosperity.

“…To the people of Abu Dhabi, and its leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, I say Salaam alaikum. Shalom Aleichem. Peace unto thee. Peace unto all of us.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, August 13, 2020)

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