Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi recently returned from what could end up being a fateful trip to Washington, where their aims were stopping the nuclearization of Iran and expanding the Abraham Accords.
Biden administration officials have reportedly warned Israel in recent weeks that America may not end up advancing these two key issues because they are upset at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for its policies on construction in the Shomron and its legal reform plan.
But the truth is that it is not the actions of Israel that are harming the expansion of the Abraham Accords but the inaction of the United States.
How did the US help with the Abraham Accords?
The role of the US in the accords was to bolster the security of Israel’s partners. That American commitment faced a key test when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired several strikes on Abu Dhabi in January and February 2022.
The UAE needed the help of the Americans, who they assisted in past wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. They were left sorely disappointed by the US, whose response was both too little and too late. It took seven weeks for the US to react, which is unacceptable for an ally.
The US has also neglected its commitment to provide the UAE with the advanced Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft, citing bureaucracy and other excuses. America insisted on vetoing when the planes would be used, a violation of the Abraham Accords.
After America failed to keep its promises to the UAE, why would Saudi Arabia or any other potential Abraham Accords partner trust the Biden administration? Such countries would only take risks to join if the US is seen as reliable, consistent and having their back.
America’s failure to honor its commitments only drives the UAE closer to a variety of potential strategic partners, including China and even Iran. This strategic diversification happened primarily because the US has lost its bearings with what should have been a critical strategic ally.
On a recent visit to Dubai, I was told by Emiratis that the UAE justifiably feels betrayed by America, which it hoped would be its most important strategic ally.
By contrast, since the accords were signed in Washington in September 2020, the Israelis and their partners in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco have honored their commitments in the agreements. Unlike the US, Israel was there for the UAE immediately after the attacks.
How has trade between nations been impacted?
Trade has skyrocketed among the four countries and Israelis have been coming en masse to visit Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Manama and Marrakech. More than 400,000 Israelis have visited the UAE. Trade between Israel and the UAE reached $2.59 billion (NIS 9.3 b.) in 2022, an increase of some 124% from the year before.
According to a 2022 report released last month by the Abraham Accords Peace Institute, total trade between Israel and its new regional partners reached $3.57 b. (NIS 13.5 b.) in 2022, up from $1.095 b. (NIS 3.9 b.) in 2021 and $593 million (NIS 2.1 b.) in 2019.
It is also in America’s interest to deliver on its promises of security to the UAE not only because of its wealth and infrastructure but because of its energy that the US may need. UAE President Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan should be looked up to as a model to the world for his country’s economic success and philosophy of tolerance, modesty and educational reform.
Due to that successful leadership, the UAE does not need America’s money, unlike other countries in the region. It merely needs the security and safety that can ensure its stability and enable the Emiratis to pass on what they’ve achieved to the next generation. There could be no better ally for the US.
This was not the first time America let the UAE down. After their service in Afghanistan, the Emiratis were not even told when the US decided to pull out. The US asked the UAE to take in America’s Afghan interpreters and they are still safely in the UAE.
Finally, America has also disappointed the UAE and the region by not doing enough to stop Iran from building its nuclear program and even blocking European attempts to instill new sanctions on Iran. America’s policy on Iran remains unclear to the UAE and the region.
Hopes had been raised by the US joining Israel in their largest joint long-range military drill last month that preceded sabotage strikes on a couple of Iranian nuclear facilities. Those actions led to optimism that after its own attempts to reach a deal failed, the Biden administration was slowly admitting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was right on Iran and Barack Obama was wrong.
Iran’s military support for Russia’s war with Ukraine and merciless crackdown on its own courageous protesters finally made the Democrats see the merit of Netanyahu’s warnings.
It has been reported that US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides thankfully told a meeting last month that there will be no more negotiations with Iran during Biden’s presidency. Whether or not Iran talks return to America’s agenda, the US needs to further get its act together and treat the UAE with the loyalty that it has earned and deserves.
Now is the time to ensure that the UAE receives what it was promised by Washington in the Abraham Accords, complete security, and thereby enable the expansion of peace in the Middle East.
The writer is the co-president of the Religious Zionists of America, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity and a committee member of the Jewish Agency. He was appointed by former US president Donald Trump to serve as a member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council. The views expressed here are his own. [email protected]