Friday, December 18, 2020

Israeli Tourists in the United Arab Emirates

It doesn’t feel like the best timing. The Wall Street Journal has recently issued a warning for those who believe that normalized relations between Israel and its Muslim neighbors will naturally lead to more and better relationships between different peoples.

The Journal notes that Israel has had normalized relations with Egypt for decades now, but that relations between citizens of the two countries have remained chilly… at the least.

But, just as the Journal story was going to press, the Washington Post reported on the flood of Israeli tourists who are now vacationing in the United Arab Emirates. No such flood has ever happened between Israel and Egypt.

To place it all in context, consider the Journal report:

Egypt was the first Arab country to recognize Israel more than 40 years ago, but the nation’s relationship with it shows the challenges of translating government ties, often driven by mutual security interests, into grass roots goodwill. It also represents a cautionary tale for Israelis seeking acceptance from the broader Middle East and North Africa through normalizing relationships with governments.

And also:

This persists despite Egypt’s close cooperation with Israel on security and President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s openness about his warm relationship with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The so-called cold peace is the result of a dual approach by Cairo in which it engages in a warm relationship at the top, but limits social and institutional ties, in part due to fear of losing public legitimacy.

Before we become too pessimistic about this report-- which is certainly true, but only up to a point-- we need to mention that Egypt, as opposed to Israel is a very poor third world country.

It is also a country where large numbers of people, perhaps the majority, sympathize with the Muslim Brotherhood. Evidently, the current Egyptian government has been working hard to tamp down the terrorists in its midst, but it takes time. One can imagine that Israelis would not feel especially welcome in Egypt.

And we add that the United Arab Emirates, a very wealthy first world country does not have a Muslim Brotherhood problem.

What it does have now is a flood of Israeli tourists. Naturally, we want to know how that is working out, so we turn to the Washington Post:

In the two weeks since commercial flights began between Tel Aviv and the Emirati cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Israelis have caused a remarkable tourism boomlet in the Gulf nation. Suddenly, Hebrew can be heard throughout the markets, malls and beaches of a destination that was strictly off-limits until the two countries achieved a diplomatic breakthrough in August and established normal relations.

More than 50,000 Israelis have brushed aside covid-19 concerns, a terrorism warning and decades of tension to make the three-hour flight across the Arab Peninsula. Israeli tourism officials expect more than 70,000 to arrive during the eight days of Hanukkah, which began last week, in an unprecedented exchange between the Jewish state and one of its historically standoffish Muslim neighbors.

The first Israelis to arrive described a congenial culture clash unlike anything they have experienced in the region.

“This is much warmer than what we felt in Jordan or Egypt,” said Arieh Engel, naming the two Arab countries that have long had official relations with Israel, but not particularly friendly ones.

Indeed, how unsurprising. We note the oil rich gulf Arab nations have seen that the oil will one day run out. So they have been planning ahead in order to improve their tourism industry. Tourists foster economic activity. And thus, tourists are a good thing.

The Post continues:

But the UAE’s incentives for opening relations with Israel were significant. The ties look to be a boon to the UAE’s tourism industry and potentially worth billions of dollars in potential foreign investment in high-tech, agriculture and arms.

Also worth noting, while we are looking at the new strategic realignment in the Middle East, is the fact that Israel has now shown itself ready to cooperate with Gulf states in the area of missile defense. And it has already been making deals to share technology in other areas.

Zero Hedge reports:

On Tuesday, a senior Israeli official expressed his country’s readiness to cooperate in the future in the field of missile defense with Gulf states which lie close to Iran. "Israel could be open to future cooperation on missile defense with Gulf Arab states that share its concerns about Iran, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday," Reuters reports.

Moshe Patil, head of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Missile Defense Organization, said that the time is not yet ripe to move forward with any of these agreements, and that Washington’s approval will be required as long as the development or financing of Israeli systems is done with American technology.

The question now is-- will the incoming Biden administration approve of the sale. Or will it return to the Obama policy of appeasing Iran, punishing Saudi Arabia and undermining Israeli security?


trigger warning said...

A menorah was lighted in Dubai celebrating Hanukkah. Powerful.

Pass the latkes, please!

trigger warning said...

"Israel could be open to future cooperation on missile defense with Gulf Arab states that share its concerns about Iran..."

Enlightened Gulf sates could do a lot worse, but no better than...

Ayatollah Rockinrollah, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Sam L. said...

Personally, I despise, detest, and distrust the WaPoo, as much as I do the NYT, but for this, I'll grant a one-time pass.

Don't mess with the Israelis: They've had to be bad-ass for yearrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs, and they're ready with loads and loads of whoop-ass.

I'm pretty certain Biden won't agree to this. But that's OK. The Israelis are smart, and have been living with the Arabs, and beating them, for years.