The Abraham Accords Turn One Year Old | Opinion

On August 13, 2020, President Donald Trump announced the Abraham Accords, the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

This was the first such agreement between Israel and an Arab country in 26 years.

Soon thereafter, on September 11, 2020, Bahrain also agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

Up until that point only two Arab countries, Egypt in 1978 and Jordan in 1994, had ever agreed to make peace with Israel. Now, in the span of just 30 days, there were two more.

The historic pacts between the United States, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain were signed on September 15, 2020, in a ceremony on the White House South Lawn.

I had the honor of being at the White House on that momentous day. I will never forget the hope, positivity and deep sense of history that permeated that gorgeous afternoon.

Then, on October 23, Sudan became the third country to join—and on December 10, the Kingdom of Morocco filled out the Abraham Accords peace quartet. In a mere 120 days, from August 13 to December 10, twice the number of Arab countries formally recognized Israel than those that did in the entire prior 72-year history of the Jewish state.

The agreements were primarily negotiated by President Trump, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz.

Their efforts earned the trio well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize nominations. Amid the difficulties of the pandemic and myriad other challenges, the Abraham Accords have served as a beacon of hope in the Middle East and around the world.

When the Abraham Accords were first announced, the Trump administration laid out its aspirations for cooperation between Israel and the UAE in the joint statement announcing the agreement. However, what came next exceeded anyone's expectations.

First, we learned of Israeli produce for sale in Emirati markets. Next, we learned of young Emirati and Bahraini influencers traveling to Israel, and of Jewish weddings in Dubai. Before long, Abu Dhabi mandated that kosher food and beverages be sold in its hotels, as Israelis eagerly planned their visits.

The Abraham Accords proved that dialogue and real cooperation between Israel and the Arab world do so much more tangible good than unjust boycotts and feckless geopolitical posturing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates arrived September 15, 2020 at the White House to sign historic accords normalizing ties between the Jewish and Arab states. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

In the last year alone, over 230,000 Israelis have visited the UAE. There are Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors to Israel. The current foreign minister and alternating prime minister of Israel, Yair Lapid, has personally visited the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Israeli consulate in Dubai.

Morocco now has a liaison office in Tel Aviv staffed by a Moroccan ambassador, and there are weekly direct flights between Israel and Morocco.

Israelis have traveled to the UAE to compete in friendly rugby matches, and cyclists in Israeli and Emirati uniforms have ridden side by side. Israel has joined Morocco and the UAE on joint military exercises. Emiratis and Bahrainis have visited Jerusalem and prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israel and the UAE have signed a wide range of collaborative Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) on health care, sport, agriculture, security, finance and across other sectors. Artists have collaborated on songs in Hebrew and Arabic. Trade between Israel and the UAE has reached over $570 million.

Even with all of these major strides, after one year we have only begun to scratch the surface of the Accords' collective potential.

Since the announcement of the Abraham Accords, there seems to be a new, significant improvement in Israeli-Arab relations each week. Just this Wednesday, Lapid visited Morocco and met with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita. The pair signed agreements in the fields of "culture, youth, sports and air service."

There have been challenges too. Since the signing of the Accords, both the United States and Israel have seen leadership changes. COVID-19 has caused (and still causes) numerous health complications, diplomatic hurdles and business delays. In May, Israel and Hamas saw their first serious violent escalation in seven years.

However, that escalation was shorter than those in the past and saw, for the first time ever, several Arab countries criticize Hamas and side with Israel.

There is no doubt that the last 365 days are a testament to the veracity of a tenet of the Abraham Accords' thesis: It is possible to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict without first resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Abraham Accords do not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—nor do they claim to do so. Instead, the Accords show Israelis, Arabs, Palestinians and the whole world that a different paradigm exists in which there is growing, overall peace in the Middle East.

The Abraham Accords underscore the absolute necessity for the United States to be a power broker on the world stage, serve as proof of Israel's desire to make peace with its neighbors and highlight the courage of the Emirati, Bahraini, Sudanese and Moroccan leadership.

After one year, it is my sincere hope that the successful approach of President Trump and his Middle East team is continued and further built upon by the current administration—and that other Arab countries join the march to peace.

Boris Epshteyn is a Newsweek columnist and a former special assistant to President Donald Trump.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.