The Peace Pact With Israel, Bahrain And The UAE Is Good Business — The Carbon Cause Included

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 15: (L-R) Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al … [+] Zayani, Prime Ministe...


Now that there’s a formal treaty with Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, more of the Gulf States in the Middle East may join in. And that translates into potential energy partnerships centered on oil and renewables. 

The “Abraham Accords” have long been in the works — all centered on their collective distrust of Iran. The reality is that the countries have already been cooperating to deter any aggression but they can now do so in the open. As such, they will exchange military intelligence and cyber defenses — but it leaves open the opportunity to go much deeper. That includes trading the tools to build green energy forces while potentially having the Israelis buy oil from the UAE. 

“Israel currently imports its oil from Russia and the former Soviet nations,” says Fred Schneiderman, chief executive of FBS Properties, which is an investment platform for oil and gas properties, in an interview. “The UAE, in particular, is a nation with about 98 billion barrels of proven oil reserves which makes it one of the leading oil-rich nations on earth. Given the proximity between Israel and the UAE and the current transportation route … an agreement between the two nations at some point appears logical.”

The friendship between Israel and the UAE got started in 2015 when the Jewish state opened up diplomatic offices in Abu Dhabi. After that, Israeli athletes competed there, and Israel has long planned to be part of the World Expo in Dubai in 2021. As for the UAE, its leadership is forward-thinking and welcomed this reporter to its country in January. Economic expansion is paramount to it. 

Israel can offer the Mediterranean oasis access to its high-tech sector and its expertise in cybersecurity. For both countries, that means everything from keeping their grids up-and-running to getting more clean energy sources to their peoples. The UAE has said that its goal is to generate half of its electricity with clean energy by 2050 — a move that will help it reduce its carbon footprint by 70%. 

The big implication of the Abraham Accords, signed September 15, is that it could lead to treaties among Israel and other Islamic countries. The commercial ties will no doubt lead to everlasting bonds — a pact that will help keep the region more secure. Oman, Morocco and Saudi Arabia could follow — yes, those Saudis that allow Israeli jets to fly across its air space. 

“Oil is not the main issue,” says Moshe Maoz, professor of Islamic studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in an interview. “The main issue is opening relations. It is a question of tourism and commerce — specifically high tech. There is also shared research on the coronavirus. The key is to get this treaty implemented. There are political constraints that can change things.” 

The Whole Palestinian Thing

Political hurdles abound. This is the Mideast after all. For starters, there’s the Palestinian struggle — something that unites the Arab world. And while the Trump administration got all the paperwork signed, it ostensibly glossed over this whole Palestinian thing. 

Some think that the treaty stopped Prime Minister Netanyahu from annexing more of the West Bank. Meantime, the Emirates say that the pact gives them the leverage to prevent any more development of the contested land. The agreement is a bit fuzzy with one side saying it “stops” the buildout while the other says it is “suspending” it. Either way, the deal could easily blow up. 

“The main problem behind this ‘peace deal’ is it ignores the Palestinian struggles and demands …,” says Notre Dame Professor of Religion, Conflict, and Peace Studies Atalia Omer, in an interview. “The impetus is also economic and intends to expand arms trade.” 

“If Netanyahu does proceed with annexation or even makes overt moves in that direction, these deals will unravel,” adds Jonathan Cristol, a research fellow in the Levermore Global Scholars program at Adelphi University, in an interview.

Border protection is the catalyst. But the Gulf State region does not move in lockstep, Cristol says, although now that the UAE and Bahrain have taken the first steps, he would anticipate a domino effect. That said, the treaties do not usher in a new era of peace — that the UAE and Bahrain have never been at war with Israel. What it does is expand business opportunities — and that includes those in the energy sector.  

Henri Barkey, Mideast expert, and professor of international relations at Lehigh University, says that a shared defense is uppermost: “More importantly, they were worried that should Iran have a deal, it would have a freer hand to engage in disruptive activities in the region such as supporting militias and terror, thinking that the West would not interfere for fear of upsetting the (Iranian) deal.” He says that the Gulf States are also worried about Turkish interference.  

A Team Effort

But don’t underestimate the economic considerations and the sheer will to overcome any political obstacles. The downturn in oil prices along with the COVID-19 pandemic have put significant pressure on the UAE’s economy. And for those reasons, it is seeking out new commercial partnerships within the Middle East and with Asia. It is investing in renewable energy projects not just at home but also around the world. Partnering with Israel makes sense. 

Israel, too, has been hit hard by the coronavirus. It sees the two economies as complementary with each other. Israel can provide not just high-tech solutions but also those in the bio-sciences. Meantime, the UAE offers Israel a hot vacation spot in Dubai as well as a gateway to the Arab World and Asia. “Israel and the UAE have parallel interests in many areas: They both have strong service sectors, close commercial ties with Asia, especially China, a wariness towards Iran, and close security ties with the United States,” says Sean Foley, a professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University, in an interview. 

“It should be noted that Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinians all have had formal diplomatic ties with Israel for decades,” he adds. “Turkey has had diplomatic relations with Israel since 1949. Other states in the region have had informal indirect arrangements for many years with Israel. It is impossible to overstate the significance of Saudi Arabia lifting its prohibition on Israeli (and other countries) using its airspace for flights to and from the Emirates and other destinations.”

Making peace in the Middle East is a team effort. And Robert Amsterdam, an international litigator and host of the Departures Podcast says that Russia has played a key — but quiet — role in this process. Yes, its relationship with Syria is at odds with that of the United States. But it has an even broader interest and influence and an expansive Iran is not part of the equation. To that end, Russia has a free trade agreement with Israel and $5 billion has changed hands for each of the last two years. Russia is Israel’s top oil supplier, giving it enormous leverage.  

“You can bet that Russia and President Putin have worked to control this situation” — to keep a lid on hostilities,” says Amsterdam, noting that Putin has strong ties to Israel and feels a bond with the huge Russian population living there. “Israel doesn’t need this deal for oil. It has a strong relationship with Russia.” 

The Abraham Accords are a good thing. No doubt, it could come undone for a variety of reasons. But it could also succeed, leaving open the possibility that other Middle Eastern nations will join in. Peace and prosperity would not be on some leader’s wish list — but something tangible that the whole world could grasp.

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Newsrust: The Peace Pact With Israel, Bahrain And The UAE Is Good Business — The Carbon Cause Included
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