Eastern Europe had its Iron Curtain blocking it from the West. And much of the Arab world has had a “sand curtain” separating it from Israel, said Jon Medved, the founder and CEO of OurCrowd, a global venture investing platform.
With the Abraham Accords, the sand is shifting.
“There’s so many really important groups that recognize that the Abraham Accords really mean new opportunities for all of us,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who, like Medved, was a panelist at a Jan. 27 webinar on the Abraham Accords and the possibilities they could lead to for the future of the Middle East and the state of Israel. The event was sponsored by the Maryland/Israel Development Center.
The Abraham Accords are agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize relations. Sudan and Morocco have entered the accords as well.
Cardin called the accords “a great moment forward.”
“It’s a big deal, because it allows the international community to recognize that Israel is there, is going to stay there and will continue to grow in its diplomatic strength by these recognitions,” Cardin said.
Some of Israel and UAE’s tangible achievements from the Accords, Cardin said, have included the opening of embassies in the Emirates and Israel, student exchanges, mutual research on COVID-19 and an estimated $300 to $500 million worth of trade that could take place each year between the two countries.
These normalization agreements had recently become possible, Cardin said, because the increasing regional threat posed by Iran has resulted in these states recognizing that Israel could become a security partner. These nations also understand that Israel’s advances in technology and economic growth are the future for a region concerned with its possible overdependence on the petroleum industry.
“There’s a natural relationship that says, ‘We’ve got to diversify our economy, and Israel’s the partner that we want to have in the region,’” Cardin said.
There is a great deal of expectation at all levels of Israeli society regarding the accords, said Yifat Alon Perel, the minister of economic and trade affairs at the Israeli Embassy. She said Israel is less isolated now. “Israel was used to, for too long, feeling a little bit like an island,” Perel said. “In a way, it has fostered very strong relations with further-away countries, countries in the European Union and of course with the United States, but it’s not so easy to be an island.
“And the very fact that we can now look also east,” Perel continued, “maybe together with the west, is very refreshing and there’s a lot of anticipation.”
By mid-December of 2020, some 50,000 Israelis had traveled to the UAE, according to a report by The Washington Post.
Medved said he believes that bilateral trade between Israel and the UAE could grow to $10 billion, while his colleague, Sabah Al-Binali, said the number could come closer to $100 billion.
“The reality is that what has happened now is no less important than the dropping of the Iron Curtain between Eastern and Western Europe,” Medved said.