A Landmark Moment, A Landmark Agreement

An Unprecedented Opportunity

Since 2007, Akin Gump has provided legal and policy counsel to the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C. In the summer of 2020, that relationship led us to assist the UAE in a momentous achievement: on September 15, 2020, the UAE became the first Arab country to normalize relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. 

When Every Word Matters

The breakthrough was born out of a shared interest in promoting peace, tolerance, inclusiveness and stability in the region. The UAE Embassy relied on a small team of Akin Gump international trade professionals to aid in the negotiations. Every sentence in meetings and documents carried great meaning and importance, and every word was carefully chosen. Akin Gump offered strategic guidance to help the Embassy navigate through the different and sometimes conflicting lenses of politics, economics, religion and history. Our team participated in meetings with stakeholders from the UAE, the White House, the U.S. Departments of Defense and State, and other U.S. federal agencies.

Connecting Two Worlds

Dubbed the “Abraham Accord” to recognize the common origins and shared beliefs among Judaism, Islam and Christianity, the UAE-Israel agreement was officially entitled Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel.

The agreement already has had profound effects. Each country has opened an embassy in the other, posted ambassadors and staff there, and sent multiple official delegations back and forth. Direct lines of communications are now established, as are direct flights. Thousands of tourists from each country have visited the other, hundreds of millions of dollars of goods and services have been traded, and billions of dollars are being invested (in fact, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office has opened an official branch in Tel Aviv). Emirati and Israeli non-governmental organizations are working together, and countless friendships have taken root.

A Bridge To The Future 

With ambassadors exchanged and new embassies opened, the foundation for a new age of cooperation is set. The two nations are partnering to fight a pandemic together, with a COVID-19 initiative linking Israeli and UAE research firms. The UAE-Israel Abraham Accord lays the groundwork for future cooperation in a number of areas, and that work is already underway. These areas include, among others:

  • Aviation
  • Energy
  • Finance and investment
  • International trade and economic relations
  • Health care
  • Tourism, culture and sports
  • Climate change and the environment
  • Telecommunications
  • Agriculture and food security
  • Legal cooperation.

In a capstone to this landmark achievement, the UAE is building the Abrahamic Faiths House, a soon-to-be-completed interfaith center in Abu Dhabi —a first of its kind campus that will feature a temple, mosque and church. It will serve to create mutual understanding among people of all faiths, reflecting the shared values that led to the agreement.

A Model for Peace

The benefits of the agreement have extended far beyond the UAE. The UAE-Israel agreement led to subsequent breakthroughs, providing a framework for other countries—in particular Sudan, Morocco and Bahrain—to build relationships with Israel. “What the UAE did is remarkably courageous,” said Hal Shapiro, who leads the firm’s regulatory practice. “It was the honor of my career to play even a small role in what has proven to be a historic moment and a landmark agreement.”