Israel’s rapprochment with Arab states
Israel on Tuesday signed a free trade deal with the United Arab Emirates, its first ever with an Arab country.
The deal is the latest chapter in a US-brokered bid to normalise ties between Israel and the Arab world, which for decades sought to isolate the Jewish state over its occupation of Palestinian territory.
The UAE was the first Gulf country to normalise ties with Israel in 2020 and was quickly followed by other Arab countries.
– Ties with UAE, Bahrain –
In August 2020, then US president Donald Trump announces that Israel and the UAE have reached a “historic” agreement to normalise ties.
The UAE is the first Gulf country to recognise Israel and the first Arab state in a quarter of a century, following in the path of Egypt and Jordan, which signed peace deals with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively.
Israel’s then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls the deal a “pivot of history”.
The Palestinians condemn the agreement as a “stab in the back”.
A month later, another Gulf country, Bahrain, also signs the US-brokered “Abraham Accords”.
– Morocco breakthrough –
In December 2020, Morocco completes the hat-trick, reestablishing ties with Israel after two decades, in exchange for US support for its claim of sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region.
– Sudan follows suit –
In January 2021, Sudan’s transitional government signs onto the accords after the country is removed from Washington’s “state sponsors of terrorism” blacklist, but the strife-torn northeast African country has yet to finalise the deal.
– Investment in Israel –
In March 2021, the UAE announces the creation of a $10-billion investment fund for strategic sectors in Israel.
Numerous accords are struck in the areas of tourism, aviation and finance.
– Embassies and defence pacts –
Israel opens its first embassy in the Gulf in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi in June 2021. The UAE reciprocates with an Emirati embassy in Tel Aviv the following month.
In September 2021, Israel opens an embassy in Bahrain.
In November 2021, the UAE and Bahrain carry out their first joint naval manoeuvres with Israel. Israel and Morocco ink a security deal that allows Rabat to acquire Israeli military technology.
– Leaders meet –
In December 2021, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett carries out the first official visit by an Israeli premier to Abu Dhabi, where he meets then crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.
In January 2022, Israeli President Isaac Herzog visits the Emirates.
In February, Israel signs a defence agreement with Bahrain and Bennett becomes the first Israeli premier to visit the country, where he meets Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.
– First direct flight –
On March 13, a Royal Air Maroc Boeing takes off from Morocco’s economic capital Casablanca for Tel Aviv, in the first direct Moroccan flight to Israel since the normalisation.
Ten days later, Morocco’s industry minister and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries sign a memorandum of understanding in Rabat on aerospace cooperation.
– Free trade deal –
On May 31, Israel and the UAE sign a free trade deal that removes customs duties on 96 percent of goods traded between the two countries, according to Israel.
Bilateral trade is projected to exceed $2 billion in 2022, with Israel eyeing Dubai as a hub for exports to the Middle East and Asia.