As part of his visit earlier this month to the Middle East, President Biden participated in the first leaders summit of a new grouping made up of Israel, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Known as the I2U2, the countries’ foreign ministers formed the bloc in the fall of 2021 to deepen technological and private sector collaboration in the region and tackle transnational challenges in six focus areas: water, energy, transportation, space, health and food security. Beyond the announcement of a food security initiative and a hybrid renewable generation facility for India, little was revealed about what’s next for I2U2.
Nearly two years since the signing of the Abraham Accords — U.S.-brokered agreements normalizing Israeli relations with the UAE and Bahrain — the bilateral hope and promise encapsulated in that diplomatic achievement have borne fruit in several arenas. This is particularly the case between Israel and the UAE, underscored most recently by the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed between the two countries on May 31. Indeed, the agreement follows a steady pace of warming ties and joint endeavors since the two countries agreed to normalize ties in 2020.
For decades, many Arab states were united in their hostility toward Israel and support for the Palestinian cause, even though in some cases that backing was simply rhetorical. In recent years, however, Israel and some Arab countries have engaged in a quiet rapprochement, spurred by common concerns over Iran’s influence in the region, among other things. The August 13 announcement of the “Abraham Accord” between Israel and the UAE was the most public and dramatic demonstration of these shifting regional dynamics. But what does this mean for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of the region in finding a resolution?