The Abraham Accords & Regional Normalization

The Abraham Accords & Regional Normalization

October 7th Update

Before October 7th there was a push by the Biden administration to broker a historic normalization agreement between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel. While there had been reports of some Palestinian component as part of such an agreement, the core of the agreement would likely have focused on U.S. military assistance and cooperation with Saudi Arabia against the threat from Iran.

The events of October 7th have complicated this march towards Israeli-Saudi normalization. According to some, Hamas’ attack was aimed at disrupting this process. However, much to the disappointment of Hamas leaders, Saudi Arabia has continued to signal its interest in normalizing relations with Israel though there is an added emphasis on creating a path toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The war that followed October 7th had the potential to damage or sever the relations between Israel and the participants in the Abraham Accords (UAE, Bahrain, Morocco) as well as two other countries (Egypt and Jordan) with normalized relations. Bahrain’s ambassador to Israel left for security reasons, Jordan’s ambassador was recalled, and Egypt considered recalling their ambassador. However, overall diplomatic ties have remained intact, particularly with Egypt which has served as one of the focal points for negotiations over Israeli hostages, and the UAE which is taking an active role in addressing the humanitarian crisis.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

On August 13th, 2020 following the suspension of the proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank, the UAE, Israel, and the U.S. announced the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement: Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization Between the UAE and the State of Israel. Though Israel was never at war with the UAE, this marked the first normalization accord with an Arab state since Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan in 1994. It also marked a departure from the formal Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 which promised normalization with all 22 Arab states once the conflict was resolved with the Palestinians.

President Donald Trump, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the UAE Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan sign the Abraham Accords (Joyce N. Boghosian/Official White House photo, 2020)

Israel heralded the agreement as a new paradigm of ‘peace for peace’ rather than land for peace. The UAE, alongside the suspension of annexation, was promised by the Trump administration F-35 aircrafts as well as other advanced weapons technology. The agreement was formally signed at the White House on the 15th of September.

Since taking office, President Joe Biden has expressed interest in building on the Abraham Accords. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted talks in Washington with his Israeli and Emirati counterparts in October 2021. The UAE has also appointed an Ambassador to Israel and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett became the first Israeli leader ever to visit the UAE where he met with Sheikh Mohmmad Bin Zayed, the country’s de-facto leader.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, UAE diplomatic adviser Anwar Gargash, Bahrain’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashid al-Khalifa and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in a virtual event marking the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords. (Screen capture/YouTube/ September 17, 2021)

On March 21, 2022, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flew to the Red Sea town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the first-ever trilateral summit with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The summit focused on joint security and economic interests and was held on the heels of a new Israeli-Egyptian security agreement allowing for a larger number of direct flights between Israel and Egypt. In addition, the direct flights between Dubai and Tel Aviv began in June 2022 and by the fall of 2023 (three years after the signing of the Abraham Accords) over a million Israelis had visited the UAE.

Furthermore, several initiatives have expanded the scope of the Abraham Accords including a cybersecurity agreement between Israel, Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates facilitated by the US Department of Homeland Security as well as a joint space project between Israel, the UAE, and India. The UAE was purported to be instrumental in a deal to provide energy from UAE-funded solar power plants in Jordan to Israel in exchange for desalinated water from Israel. The deal was expected to be announced in November 2023 but has been postponed. As of 2023, there has been $3 billion in annual trade between Israel and the UAE.

The strengthening of ties between Israel and the UAE has also coincided with an increased ability of the Emirati government to criticize Israeli policy related to Palestinians, Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, and settlements. For example, in April 2022, the UAE summoned its Ambassador to Israel in response to clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in the al-Aqsa compound.

As noted above, the events of October 7th and the subsequent war have strained relations between Israel and the UAE. Yet, these relations have survived and the UAE has increasingly taken a role as a middleman between Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel. In December 2023, as a result of Houthi maritime attacks, the UAE facilitated the development of an alternative land trade bridge extending from Saudi Arabia through Jordan to Israel. In March 2024 the UAE threatened to suspend these operations if sufficient humanitarian aid did not reach Gaza prompting Israel to permit the US to construct a humanitarian aid dock in Gaza.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. (UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs/Reuters/ March 22, 2022)


Bahrain was the first Gulf state to commend the UAE on the Abraham Accords and on September 11th, 2020, President Trump announced that Bahrain would also be joining the Abraham Accords. On the 15th of September Bahrain and Israel signed the Abraham Accords: Declaration of Peace, Cooperation, and Constructive Diplomatic and Friendly Relations. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett further cemented the established relations in a meeting with King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa in Bahrain. The countries agreed on a 10-year plan for expanding ties in numerous fields dubbed ”The Joint Warm Peace Strategy”.

Several major visits occurred in 2022-2023 including then Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s and Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s visit in February 2022. These relations continued when Netanyahu returned to office with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visiting in September 2023 to open a new embassy.

Like relations between Israel and the UAE, relations between Israel and Bahrain have been greatly strained since October 7th. In November 2023, the Bahraini ambassador to Israel was recalled under ambiguous circumstances.


Unlike other countries, Morocco had liaison offices in Israel up until the 2nd Intifada. Morocco holds a special place for many Mizrachi Jews in Israel who track their heritage back to the Kingdom. On December 10th 2020 the White House announced that Morocco had agreed to begin normalizing relations in return for U.S. recognition of the Western Sahara as Moroccan territory. Despite bipartisan opposition to the recognition of the Western Sahara, the Trump administration agreed and on December 22nd 2020 a joint declaration was signed pledging to quickly begin direct flights, promote economic cooperation, reopen liaison offices and move toward “full diplomatic, peaceful and friendly relations.” Following the signing Morocco announced it would be teaching Jewish history and culture in its schools.

On August 11, 2021, Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita hosted his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, in Rabat to further cement the Abraham Accords and promote stronger cultural, economic and security relations between the two countries. In November 2021, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed a memorandum of understanding with his Moroccan counterpart, the first such agreement between Israel and an Arab state. The agreement formalized the defense ties and allowed for smoother cooperation between their defense establishments. A delegation of senior Moroccan academics visited Bar-Ilan University to participate in a conference, titled “Jewish Culture and Law in Morocco”. The event conference was co-hosted by Israeli and Moroccan research centers – the Aharon and Rachel Dahan Center for Culture, Society and Education in the Sephardic Heritage at Bar-Ilan University, and the Center for Studies and Research on Hebraic Law in Essaouira, Morocco.

Throughout 2022 and 2023, these ties deepened and several other collaborative projects were introduced. These included a joint endeavor between the International University of Rabat (UIR) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a “defense establishment Steering Committee” to focus on cybersecurity and intelligence, a program through Bar-Ilan University to cooperate on energy issues and an agricultural agreement. Furthermore, 2022 and 2023 saw several high-profile visits by Israeli military and government officials including Chief of the Israeli Army Aviv Kochavi and Knesset Members Amir Ohana and Miri Regev. In the aftermath of an earthquake in Morocco in September 2023, Israeli NGO IraAID sent a team for humanitarian assistance.

As a result of October 7th, relations between Israel and Morocco have been strained. In mid-October, Israel’s Ambassador to Morocco David Guvrin along with the rest of the embassy staff left Rabat as protests against the Moroccan government’s relationship with Israel increased. By December these protests had reached approximately 10,000 members. Despite this pressure from the public, Morocco has maintained a strategic role in managing the transportation of humanitarian aid into Gaza organizing airdrops and a land route through the Kerem Shalom crossing.


On October 23rd 2020, Sudan announced it too would be normalizing relations with Israel conditional that: it was removed from the U.S. State Sponsor of Terrorism list, economic sanctions were lifted and debt was forgiven. Sudan agreed to pay U.S. victims of terrorism $332 million dollars while denying any wrongdoing. Congress approved the changes in U.S. law in the Omnibus spending bill in December 2020 and on January 6th 2021, Sudan and Israel signed the Abraham Accords Declaration with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin in attendance in Khartoum.

Despite an official visit to Sudan by Israeli Intelligence Eli Cohen where a memorandum of understanding on security-related issues was signed in late 2021, the path towards officially normalizing relations has been slowed down by the rising tensions between Sudan’s civil and military leaders who govern through a fragile power-sharing agreement. Questions remain about the prospects of stability in the country though the two countries finalized a deal to normalize relations after Sudan transitions from a military to a civilian government. Israel even offered to host rival Sudanese leaders for mediation talks.

In the aftermath of October 7th, these slowly developing relations have been halted.

Saudi Arabia

On October 23rd 2020 Sudan announced it too would be normalizing relations with Israel conditional that: it was removed from the U.S. State Sponsor of Terrorism list, economic sanctions were lifted and debt was forgiven. Sudan agreed to pay U.S. victims of terrorism $332 million dollars while denying any wrongdoing. Congress approved the changes in U.S. law in the Omnibus spending bill in December 2020 and on January 6th 2021 Sudan and Israel signed the Abraham Accords Declaration with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin in attendance in Khartoum. The possibility of normalized relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia has long been seen as a game changer in the Middle East. With such an agreement, Israel would receive the imprimatur of the leading Sunni Muslim country and a key strategic partner against Iran. Saudi Arabia would likely benefit directly from Israeli military technology and indirectly from increased US support. In the weeks before October 7th, the potential for an Israeli-Saudi normalization was gaining traction. On September 30th, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that a “basic framework” for normalization had already been worked out.

With the events of October 7th, this push for normalization was paused although Saudi Arabia has indicated that it intends to continue the process at a later date. Some US officials have hinted that a normalization agreement might be included as part of a “grand bargain” in which Israel would permit a process enabling a pathway to Palestinian statehood and would receive normalized relations with Saudi Arabia in turn. While the war continues, Saudi Arabia has agreed to create a land trade route from Saudi Arabia through Jordan to Israel in order to bypass Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.