UAE, Bahrain Establish Relations with Israel, Others Likely to Follow

By Liam Brucker-Casey
International News Editor

Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner and U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien board the first-ever commercial direct-flight from Israel to the UAE on August 31st, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Nir Elias/Pool Photo via AP)

On August 13 Israel and The United Arab Emirates announced they would be establishing diplomatic ties. This move towards friendly relations, facilitated in conjunction with the United States, is a sign of further cooperation between Israel and the Gulf States.

A longtime foe of Israel, The UAE, along with the other wealthy gulf states, has historically opposed Israel, but in recent decades, Israel and the Gulf states have begun to forge closer ties, made more desirable by their shared support of the United States, and their enmity toward Iran. Many Muslim states have been reluctant to publicly extend open arms to Israel, often citing Israel’s conduct towards Muslim-majority Palestine as an obstacle to friendship. Nations as distant as Bangladesh and Brunei have yet to officially recognize Israel. The United Arab Emirates, a nation made rich by oil, has for years worked to diversify its economy, and boost its international image.

In an effort not to be perceived as abandoning its advocacy for Palestine, the Emirati Government touted the deal’s requirement that Israel halt its efforts to annex the Palestinian West Bank. Earlier in the year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he was committed to annexing parts of the West Bank’s annexation, a move which would be illegal under international law. Somewhat at odds with UAE’s public stance, the Israeli Governmenthas characterized the annexation plans as only “temporarily” on hold. The Palestinian Government in the West Bank decried the agreement, which it views as representing Emirati desertion of their fellow Arabs.

An electronic display aboard the first-ever commercial direct flight from Israel to the UAE shows the flight path from Tel-Aviv to Abu Dhabi on August 31st, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Nir Elias/Pool Photo via AP)

The deal allows for the two nations not only allows for the movement of citizens between them, but also permits financial and economic deals. On August 31st, the first direct commercial flight between the two nations arrived in Abu Dhabi. Along with other Israeli and American officials, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner departed the Israeli El Al Boeing 737 and was greeted by heaps of symbolism. Likely an indication of its support for the deal, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia permitted the airliners flight through Saudi airspace.

On September 11th, 2020 the small Gulf state of Bahrain followed the UAE, by agreeing to establish relations with Israel , likely still the beginning of a broader trend of diplomatic thaw. The move was unsurprisingly lamented by Palestinian officials. Many other Arab and Muslim states have like Bahrain and the UAE, had covert or unofficial dealings with Israel, and like Bahrain and the UAE, they too are likely to do take actions that will lessen Israel’s international isolation.


Meir Ben-Shabbat bumps elbows with an Emirati official before departing from the United Arab Emirates on September 1st, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Nir Elias/Pool Photo via AP)


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