Good News from the Middle East

Arab countries funding Israel to desalinate water for Jordan in exchange for Jordan’s solar-generated electricity? A joint Jewish/Arab mission to the Moon? Nine kosher restaurants and food venues in Dubai?

Listening to a talk given in Los Angeles, December 18, at Beth Jacob Congregation by David Makovsky, a senior Middle East expert with Washington Institute for Near East Policy, made me realize how little I knew about the Abraham Accords. The promise they bring appears to surpass the hard-won security agreements between Israel and its neighbors. The Accords offer a sound hope, not just for some symbolic, abstract peace with Arab countries, but for tangible, long-term, economically-sound partnerships in energy manufacturing, water, space, health care, agriculture, and other industries that can finally bring the Arab countries and Israel together. And some of these partnerships are already underway, with bilateral trade expected to reach over $1 billion by the end of this year and $6.5 billion by 2025.

Makovsky’s talk reminded of the previous economic benefits to Israel from its peace treaty with Egypt, a treaty that has withstood the two intifadas, the recent Gaza crisis, and even the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt itself. The post-Camp David increase in security has led to a stunning drop in Israel’s military spending: from 40 percent of the country’s budget in the 1970s to 5 percent today. These savings channeled billions of dollars into Israel’s infrastructure, improving people’s lives, strengthening the country from within.

The Abraham Accords have also raised the possibility of a profound change in the view of the Jewish state in the Arab world. For decades, its dominant rhetoric portrayed Israel as a foreign, colonizing entity. Now a new view is beginning to emerge, not only in the Emirates, but also in the government-controlled Saudi media, one that accepts Jews as indigenous inhabitants of the Middle East and calls for respectful co-existence with Israel. Those are all welcome, hopeful signs of a lasting peace.

Photo: Sukkah at the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, a Dubai’s landmark that is now home to an upscale kosher restaurant. Credit: Antonin Kelian Kallouche/Gulf News