One year after the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Israel-Bahrain ~ Morocco and Sudan signed on a few months later ~ marking the normalisation of relations between Arab-Maghreb nations and the world’s only Jewish state came into effect, the larger West Asian region remains a global flashpoint. The unravelling of the Afghan issue has not helped the situation.
But even taking that ongoing disaster into account, the progress which was expected to be made following this civilisational détente between Judaism and Islam, and the modern nation-states they have found structural expression in, has been mixed at best. The accords are named after Abraham to emphasise the shared origin of belief between Judaism and Islam, both of which are Abrahamic religions that espouse the monotheistic worship of a singular, supreme God. But it is in the hands of ordinary mortals that the implementation of the accords rest.
There have been some positives, notably the opening of the first Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi and that of the UAE in Tel Aviv, the appointment of the first Israeli and Bahraini ambassadors to each other’s countries, and the establishment of liaison offices between Israel and Morocco which are expected to be upgraded to embassies in the near future. Yet, it is the opportunities lost that are arguably of greater significance. The consensus among scholars on the region is that the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian peace, especially through a two-state solution which the accords were expected to help achieve, remains as elusive as ever. This, in turn, keeps Israel’s pariah status among its neighbours and the wider Muslim world unchanged. The addition of four more predominantly Sunni/Arab nations to Egypt and Jordan that are willing to work constructively with Israel has also proven of little consequence vis-à-vis the Iran situation; the election of a hard-line Iranian president, the accelerated pace of uranium enrichment by Tehran, and the stalemate around reviving the nuclear deal have ensured there is no relief from that quarter either.
In the Maghreb, meanwhile, the Tunisian President Kais Saied has dismissed parliament, suspended the constitution, and declared a state of emergency. Opinion is split in West Asia on whether this was required to prevent an Islamist takeover of the country or whether it was a coup.
Either way, neither Israel nor its Arab neighbours, nor indeed Washington, want to as much as talk about it seriously, forget doing anything about it. Some experts believe the fact that the accords were negotiated by former US President Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and political adviser Avi Berkowitz has made the Joe Biden Administration less than enthusiastic in following through on their implementation. Shibley Telhami and Marc Lynch writing in The Washington Post point out that the results of the ‘Middle East Scholar Barometer’, a survey of area specialists, endorses the view that there has been very little to show in terms of tangible achievements a year after the Abraham Accords were inked.