Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, received on Thursday the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's most prestigious award in recognition of his role in cementing the Abraham Accords.
At a gala event in New York, the Washington Institute presented its highest honour, the Scholar-Statesman Award, to Sheikh Mohamed for his leadership in securing peace with Israel last year and for fostering religious tolerance.
Robert Satloff, the institute's executive director, flew to Abu Dhabi recently and presented Sheikh Mohamed with the award, during which the leader made his first comments about the groundbreaking decision to transform the UAE’s relationship with Israel.
The Abraham Accords were signed in September 2020 at the White House and normalised relations between the UAE and Israel. Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan soon followed suit.
Sheikh Mohamed pointed to Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, as the inspiration behind taking the step, calling him a “man of peace and compassion”.
“That is his vision and we are committed to this path,” he said.
But he also highlighted the UAE's vision for the future and the desire for Arab-Israeli peace as another impetus behind the Abraham Accords.
“First, for the Palestinians themselves. Second, to send a clear message to the world and the region that we are striving for peace.”
Asked about the risks involved in such a decision given the lengthy, hostile history between Israel and its neighbours, Sheikh Mohamed acknowledged them but said they were outweighed by the rewards.
“Every decision has risks, undoubtedly, [and] we are also living in a complex region. But the rewards are an incentive and the outcomes we will achieve together are far greater than the drawbacks.”
He said the goal from the beginning was peace that would positively affect cultural, technological and energy ties.
“When we decided on this step, we were looking forward to a level of co-operation that goes beyond just peace itself,” Sheikh Mohamed said.
“The UAE aspires to a greater peace, one that is for the benefit of all.”
Mr Satloff told The National that giving Sheikh Mohamed the award was a natural decision for the Washington Institute's board, given the transformational effects of the accords.
“This is not just a peace — it's a peace of unusual depth. Political, economic, cultural, person to person, even extraterrestrial, in terms of a joint space programme [between the UAE and Israel],” Mr Satloff said.
“It’s remarkable in its depth and breadth, with thanks to the UAE and its efforts to expand peace to other Arab countries … thanks to the UAE, more than half of all Arabs now live in countries at peace with Israel.”
Mr Satloff also mentioned the UAE's promotion of religious tolerance, which has made it a welcoming place for people of all faiths.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog sent a congratulatory video to the event, calling the agreement a “historic turning point”.
“It is a complete sea change, and I commend and congratulate all those who took part in bringing through the Abraham Accords,” Mr Herzog said.
Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE's ambassador to the US, as well as other dignitaries attended the event in New York.
Previous recipients of the award include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, former British prime minister Tony Blair, former US president Bill Clinton and former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz.