On September 15, two prominent Gulf countries, the UAE and Bahrain, signed a groundbreaking peace treaty. These countries join Jordan and Egypt in normalizing relations with the only Jewish nation in the region. The normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel not only hails a new age of peace within the Middle East, but it could very well open the doors to business and tourism growth for the small but upwardly rising country.
The peace agreement had been in the works for several years and while it brings significant political implications, it also portends to deliver the economic bounty to those nations entering into it.
That is already playing out with the announcement that Emirati APEX National Investment signed a deal referred to as a “strategic commercial agreement” with Israel’s Tera Group. This agreement focuses on issues related to COVID-19 that will include testing devices.
This agreement is the first ‘deal’ between the UAE and Israel following the peace agreement and is expected to usher in a new age of prosperity and growth between the two countries. Although this was the first official announcement of work between the two nations’ businesses, there have been ongoing beliefs that there were business dealings going on outside public view.
One such example involves Group 42, a UAE business, that had been working with Israeli state-owned defense firms in order to develop technologies to battle the spread of COVID-19.
While the peace agreement is a major step forward politically, many analysts agree that this aspect is more symbolic. There have been numerous ‘peace agreements’ in the Middle East for decades, with few of them amounting to much more than temporary gestures.
However, it’s the economic impact that is likely to unfold as a result. When nations open up trade and business, as well as tourism between one another, they develop stronger bonds naturally. That is expected to be the result of this agreement between the UAE and Israel as well.
One of the first major benefits will involve energy supplies. Because Saudi Arabia is the largest oil exporter by far in the Middle East, it has been difficult for the UAE to compete. Now, it won’t have to. While Israel doesn’t have oil agreements with Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern exporters, they will now be able to buy directly from the UAE.
This will not only help lower the cost of energy for Israel, but it will provide the UAE with a new customer for its oil reserves. For several years there has simply been an overproduction of oil, creating less demand. This deal helps the UAE expand its base and Israel can now, finally, get oil directly from a source.
Both of these countries have suffered in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, in which Israel’s economy contracted by 6.2 percent and the UAE shrunk by 3.5 percent in the first quarter. Unemployment in both nations jumped, as it has in most countries around the world, but now they will have an opportunity to support one another through business and tourism, which will likely have a positive influence on each economy.
Some Israeli travel agencies have already begun advertising trips ‘coming soon’ to Dubai. Whereas other Middle Eastern nations like Egypt and Jordan, which have each signed peace agreements with Israel, many Jewish travelers avoid those countries due to bloody conflicts in the past and fears about safety. But Dubai is considered a ‘dream destination’ for many. Though tourism and business are certainly the main points of cooperation, the two Middle Eastern nations are set to collaborate on food and water security.
Two of the most critical aspects of health and well-being in a region that constantly bakes under a relentless sun are the production of food and the availability of water reserves. In the wake of the peace accord, UAE’s Minister of Food and Water Security, Mariam Al Mheiri as well as Israel’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alon Schuster, met in August by a virtual teleconference where they agreed on the importance of the Peace Accord.
The two agreed in principle to cooperate and support one another in these two critical areas. In light of that meeting, it’s anticipated that both will be meeting more frequently to discuss how they can, directly and indirectly, help one another secure water supplies and provide food where needed. Israel has the ability to produce a wide range of crops and has become a leader in innovation and technology in agriculture and drip irrigation.
By working together, the UAE and Israel may be able to expand their reach and provide much-needed support and food resources to less fortunate countries.
For most people around the world, peace is often the goal. Now that the UAE has signed an agreement with Israel, it provides hope for many throughout the Middle East. Israeli citizens will soon be able to travel with their passports to the UAE, increasing tourism and prosperity.
They will also be able to openly collaborate with the UAE. As the two nations conduct more deals and expand their relationship, it will strengthen their connection, which will likely have more positive long-reaching ramifications that could very well extend beyond their own borders.
It is a great deal and perhaps only the beginning of exciting developments to come out of the Middle East.