Mansoor Al Marzooqi and Dimitri Assuline share what was until recently a most unlikely friendship. The former an Emirati and the latter an Israeli, the two young men met after their fathers became acquainted during an Israeli trade delegation’s visit to the UAE earlier this year. Mr Assuline’s father, Patrick, was hospitalised in Dubai with Covid-19 during the trip and was cared for by Mr Al Marzooqi’s father, Mohamed. The two families have since grown so close that Mr Al Marzooqi has since moved to Israel, where he plans to complete his undergraduate studies.
“Mansoor’s family is my family; I was reborn in Dubai,” Patrick Assuline told The National this week.
The story is a ripple in the seismic wave of change brought about by last year’s signing of the Abraham Accords, as the deal to normalise relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain is known. Brokered by then US president Donald Trump as part of an agreement that Israel would halt an earlier plan to annex large parts of Palestinian territory, the Accords have resulted in an unprecedented flourishing of Israeli ties with a number of Arab countries.
While Israel already enjoyed formal relations with its immediate neighbours Egypt and Jordan, the atmosphere was often tense, and even hostile. The Abraham Accords are distinctive for the way that they encourage strong, earnest co-operation between the UAE and Israel across multiple sectors, including science, culture education, technological development, defence and food security. Suddenly, travel, commerce and knowledge exchange of the kind experienced firsthand by the Al Marzooqi and Assuline families was possible in a way it had never been before.
Over the past year, Morocco and Sudan have also taken steps to normalise relations with Israel. In a region with many conflicts that often seem totally intractable, the Abraham Accords upended what seemed to be an intractable situation in favour of coexistence.
Part of the spirit of the Accords, however, is the recognition that there are still more work to be done. Among them is the continued occupation of Palestinian land by Israel. Arab states who have transformed their relationships with Israel have made it clear that doing so was set within the context of a larger mission to ensure peace in the region, including the need to uphold Palestinian dignity and, ultimately, the prospect of statehood. Encouraging dialogue and removing opportunities for violence between not only Israelis and Palestinians, but Israelis and the wider Arab world, is fundamental to those objectives.
It also grants Arab states a more effective seat at the table from which to advocate in discussions between Israel and its main security partner, the US. The administration of President Joe Biden is taking Palestinian interests seriously. Bill Burns, the CIA director under the current US administration, is currently visiting both Palestine and Israel, where he is expected to discuss the security concerns of both nations and, inevitably, the need for co-operation between them in many areas. This kind of dialogue, which emphasises dignity and mutual respect on both sides of the Palestine-Israel divide, is crucial to shaping the lasting legacy of the Abraham Accords. Thus far, one year on, the momentum the Accords kickstarted has not ceased to build.