Israeli couple Noemie Azerad, right, and her husband Simon David Benhamou, grasp hands on the shoulders of skullcap-wearing groomsmen during their wedding party at a hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 17, 2020.

Celebrating a well-rooted Israeli-Arab deal

The first-year celebrations of the Abraham Accords reflect how rapidly former foes wanted and needed a normalization of ties, helping cement the pact as a model.

Peace deals are rarely celebrated only a year after they are signed. Many prove too fragile. But this week peace has an air of inevitability as officials from both the Biden and Trump administrations are honoring the first anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, the first peace deal any Arab country has signed with Israel in 26 years.

Inked Sept. 15 last year, the U.S.-brokered deal has created a thriving partnership between Israel and two Gulf states, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. (Sudan and Morocco later agreed to the accords.) “What is most remarkable is that in the past year, we’ve gone from ink on the page to concrete improvements between countries,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, at a celebration in New York on Monday.

The accords were not named after the biblical patriarch Abraham – Ibrahim in Arabic – for nothing. Muslims from the Arab states have been able to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, while Bahrain’s tiny Jewish community has been able to hold its first Shabbat services in a synagogue since 1947. Such public expressions of each religion’s shared roots may be key to the pact’s longevity.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have visited the UAE – where they can find kosher buffets in hotels – while Gulf businesses have signed deals with Israeli tech firms. Perhaps related to the new comity, a new Israeli government has included an Israeli Arab party in its coalition for the first time.

The real test of the pact lies in whether it can calm the region’s conflicts, especially the one between Israelis and Palestinians. It provides “another tool to use to build common positions and deal with problems that are shaking the entire region,” says former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey. Although the pivotal state of Saudi Arabia has yet to sign on, its foreign minister praises the deal for the “positive effect on relations in the region.”

The massive exchange of long-estranged peoples may help ensure the new peace lasts a long time. “Our region is tired of war,” said Moroccan Ambassador to the U.N. Omar Hilale. “Our region suffered a lot from all kinds of extremism, terrorism, and rejection of ‘the other,’” he said. “We need peace in hearts. We need peace in minds.” That may be why the various celebrations of the pact in the United States are so bipartisan. Done right, peace can transcend politics.

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