20 Oct 2020

Emirati and Israeli perspectives on Abraham Accord

Elyazia AlHosani and Miriam Tekuzener

The signing of the Abraham Accord between the UAE, Israel, and Bahrain has brought about a significant shift in perceptions of peace, security, and progress in the Middle East. Among the most critical influencing factors has been the youth’s response on both sides. TRENDS Research & Advisory captured this change’s essence with its researcher Elyazia AlHosani contributing a youth perspective on the agreement. Her blog was published by The Times of Israel alongside an Israeli viewpoint by Miriam Tekuzener. Both articles are combined and reproduced below:

An Emirati perspective

Elyazia AlHosani

I write this as an Emirati who has been following, studying, and researching political and strategic issues for years. Based on my daily interactions with people in my homeland, especially the youth, and looking at how their views have changed in recent decades, I can safely claim that the overwhelming majority of UAE citizens share my opinion.

However, I must add that some of them continue to disregard the transformations shaping the world around us and prefer to repeat the same tired slogans as though they were inescapable fate.

Any serious observer of the UAE policies will not be surprised by the normalization of relations with Israel. The agreement is a natural outcome of the UAE’s approach to tolerance, moderation, and acceptance of the other irrespective of religion, race, or ideology.

I remember a statement made by Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, which puts this approach in perspective. On the occasion of the visit of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar to the UAE in 2019, and the signing of the “Document on Human Fraternity.”

He said: “The world is large enough for us all, and diversity is a source of richness, not a cause for conflict or fighting. God has created us differently to complement each other and to know one another and cooperate for good, peace, and development of all.”

We are not living in an age of grand nationalism or religious and doctrinal ideologies that tie national interests to outdated, stagnant and close-minded philosophies. Today, national interest is the core driver of state policies. This is natural and logical because any government’s ultimate responsibility is to ensure peace and progress. National interest takes precedence over everything else.

The UAE pursues the interests of its people in all circumstances. It views the normalization of the UAE’s relationship with Israel as a breakthrough that will open significant opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships in the economy, trade, health, technology, and education. The two countries have immense potential, capabilities, and ambitions, and the peace agreement demonstrates the UAE’s confidence in its policies even if some detractors see otherwise. The nation’s long-term interest is the sole guiding principle of UAE leadership’s decisions.

The youth, who constitute a majority of the region’s population, aspire for development and jobs. Their sights are set on the future, and they are unfettered by futile conflicts and hostilities of the past. I genuinely believe that most young Arabs support this agreement as it aligns with their priorities.

This was evident in an Arab Youth Center survey conducted in the UAE on the youth’s priorities in the 15-35 age group. The survey findings were published on August 12, 2020, on the occasion of International Youth Day.

Its findings suggest that Arab youth’s priorities are security, stability, education, health, enhancing income, job opportunities, self-improvement and character-building, environment, infrastructure, social empowerment, technological progress, and entertainment. All of these can only be achieved in an atmosphere of peace.

Only extremists oppose peace because they look at history as a continuum of inevitable conflict. Our region cannot remain captive to these destructive ideas, which have already cost it dearly for decades. Defeating such misgivings requires unwavering courage and a positive model that shows the benefits of peace. The UAE is striving to achieve just that by normalizing its relations with Israel.

My generation of Emirati and Arabs long for a bright future where peace and prosperity prevail. We look forward to overcoming decades of unjustified hatred and replacing it with a culture where tolerance and fraternity enable us to work hand-in-hand to realize a better future. This is the essence of the peace treaty between Israel and the UAE.

An Israeli perspective

Miriam Tekuzener

With the end of the first month of the Jewish calendar, you can feel new beginnings in the air. Last week, the Israeli cabinet voted unanimously in favor of the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament then overwhelmingly approved the deal, and on Thursday the government is due to give the agreement its final ratification.

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed spoke on the phone for the first time since the peace treaty signing on the White House’s South Lawn, and Israelis are very excited over the prospects of an official visit by the UAE delegation.

As an Israeli who has lived my whole life in Jerusalem, peace deals with Arab countries always felt a bit out of reach. I too was glued to the television on September 15th as our country’s representatives signed the peace treaty that revealed a relationship long in the making. For us Israelis, the signing represents a new era, a time when we can look past differences and toward a future of establishing ties, which will include a series of bilateral agreements on investment, tourism, health care, culture and many other areas.

But the truth is, to understand the meaning of these agreements with both the UAE and Bahrain, we need to look back to the extraordinary events of 1967.

Two months after the June 1967 war, the leaders of the Arab states, led by Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, met in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum. In this meeting, “The Three No’s” were declared: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.

The Arab world is known for not making peace or agreements from a point of weakness, which explains why the Arab countries were so determined not to come to any agreement with Israel in 1967. That idea started to change after the death of Abdel Nasser. With his death, the idea of the United secular Arab countries began to fade.

When Sadat enhanced Egyptian nationality, he stepped closer to the United States and farther from the Soviets. One of the first steps was to approach Israel, and that can’t be done from a place of defeat. That led to the 1973 October war. Even though Israel eventually recovered, it was not considered a victory. That move led Sadat to sign the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country, the 1979 Camp David Accords.

This deal was the first to break the stalemate of 1967, and later paved the way to peace agreements with Jordan and the PLO. But the move that really changed the Middle East was the Arab Spring of 2010-2011. People went out to the streets calling for bread, justice, freedom. Governments changed, approaches changed and, for the first time, countries were looking through different glasses at what is best for their people and for the development of the country.

While the situation in many countries in the Middle East is unstable, with civil wars and changing governments, Israel is considered a very stable country — our Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held the position since 2009. The Israeli economy is leading and Israel is considered a highly advanced and developed country. On the other hand, the UAE has been a unique model of development in the region, and a powerful symbol of peace and security.

All the above led the UAE, Bahrain, and Israel to the historical moment on September 15. The signing of this agreement is essentially the UAE saying that Israel isn’t part of the problem — it is a part of the solution.

This agreement heralds a new era, not only on a political level – it’s not just to stop Israel from annexing the West Bank – but an era where The Three No’s are put aside, and the Arab countries see Israel as a stable partner, leading to other countries looking into peace agreements with Israel. These agreements will lead to partnerships in technology, medicine, military, finance, tourism and many other aspects.

As an Israeli, I have dreamed of the day when we would have peace with our neighbors – days when we can get on a plane and visit Arab countries that have such similar cultures to ours. A day where I can guide my Emirati friends in Israel and bring them to visit Jerusalem – and now the day has come.

We are just past the holidays here in Israel and in the famous Israeli song that we sing, we say that right after the holidays, changes and good things will come. This is the first step of a new future, a better future for us, our children, our countries and the world.

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