Robert Greenway: On the Abraham Accords’ first anniversary there’s real impact and even greater potential

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For generations, we imagined what achieving peace in the Middle East could bring to the region and its people. Today, with vast natural resources, aspirational societies, and a growing population with approximately 65 percent under the age of 30, Middle Easterners are postured to move forward and seize new opportunities to build on the region’s limitless potential—and a transformative agreement. 

As we mark the first anniversary of the Accords signing it’s important that we assess its impact and potential. The Abraham Accords provide a pathway to the end of decades of conflict and a future of peace, tolerance, and opportunity in the Middle East and around the world. 

To sustain and accelerate the transformation, we have established the Abraham Accords Peace Institute as an international, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the implementation and expansion of the historic peace agreement

The Institute will increase the probability that these relationships will flourish, conflict will subside, and new opportunities and relationships will be created. It will pursue four interdependent pillars. It will work to grow trade between the participating countries, increase tourism between the countries, foster people-to-people development to build stronger bonds between the countries, and promote normalization through studies on the opportunities intrinsic to the Accords attracting additional signatories. 

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The Abraham Accords have already led to tremendous economic opportunities, which will increase prosperity and quality of life in the participating countries. As commercial ties grow, so will the strength of the bonds between the countries and their people. 

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has reported over $570 million in business with the UAE alone in the last year and projections by Israel’s Finance Ministry reflect it’s likely to reach $1 billion by the end of the year, and $6.5 billion by 2025. While new trade and capital flow hold the potential to immediately benefit Accords members, they also stand to have a significant spillover effect on the entire region and broader global economy as it recovers from the pandemic. 

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On August 31, 2020, Israel’s flagship carrier El Al operated the first-ever direct commercial flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi, followed by a first flight from Israel to Manama on October 18. The UAE’s Etihad Airways launched its first commercial flight to Israel a day later, on October 19. In another first, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to the flights—and importantly agreed to allow all such flights from Israel. Israel’s first direct flight carrying over 100 tourists recently landed in Marrakech Morocco reflecting the potential of both tourism markets. 

Normalization could create as many as 4 million new jobs and $1 trillion in new economic activity in the coming decade. Every tourist who takes a flight between these previously disconnected countries becomes an ambassador for the Abraham Accords, regional harmony, and the potential they represent for the region and the world. These individuals bring their experiences back to their communities and share them with their friends on social media. Tourism is a key driver of stronger bilateral relations, understanding between people, and commercial activity. 

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Reuniting Muslims, Jews, and Christians is an essential component of the Abraham Accords. This will happen partially through business and tourism, but the countries of the region would also benefit enormously from targeted programs to bolster and expedite people-to-people reconnection. Maps of the Middle East have historically depicted the region as the center of the world’s trade. For decades, this ancient leg of the Silk Road facilitating trade, economic, cultural, political, and religious links between East and West was severed due to political disagreements and a culture of distrust that threatened regional economic development and international peace and security. 

The Abraham Accords—and the new connections which are now possible as a result—provide an unprecedented opportunity to reorient market access and global transportation hubs enabling improved efficiency and the establishment of trusted supply chains on terms favorable to the United States and its partners. 

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Israel can leverage UAE as a logistical hub for market access to India and Asia, Bahrain to expand ties to Saudi Arabia, Morocco for expanded access to the EU and sub-Saharan Africa, Kosovo for access into the emerging markets of Eastern Europe, and Sudan for the horn of Africa. 

In return, Accords signers can leverage Israel’s strategic location in the Eastern Mediterranean and its access to the U.S. market. 

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The Abraham Accords, and the Institute which bears its name, hold the potential to serve as the foundation for a peace process in the Middle East by demonstrating the tangible benefits of interpersonal ties, trade, commerce, and mutual cooperation. 

This new effort will help seize this historic opportunity to unleash the Middle East’s potential, to keep America safe, and to help the region turn the page on a generation of conflict and instability.

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