Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the site of the attack against settlers on the outskirts of Jerusalem on Friday (Reuters)

How Do the Political Transformations in Israel Affect the Abraham Accords?


Sun, 05-02-2023 05:58 PM, Aden

Azzam Shaath (South24)

Benjamin Netanyahu's return to power in Israel has raised a lot of questions about the future of the Arab-Israeli relationships and the fate of the Abraham Accords. This is especially because the Netanyahu government is formed from the right-wing coalition including radical religious parties which declare publicly their extremist positions towards the Arab, regional and international issues and deny the rights of Palestinians as well as demonstrate their hostility towards Arab people and their desire to drive them out of their homes.

These changes regarding the form of the new Israeli government and its policy raise two main questions; the first: What are the determinants of the Arab-Israeli cooperation in light of the agenda and the general lines of the Netanyahu government? The second: To what extent would the Abraham Accords be affected by the declared Israeli positions and the field measures against the Palestinians? Is it possible to expand the agreements and develop the alliances separately from the path of the political settlement and resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

First: The structure of the Israeli government and its program:

Considering the Israeli elections results [1] in November 2022, Netanyahu engaged in deep discussions with his partners in the Israeli right wing. He decided to form a coalition government from Likud, the Haredi parties, and Religious Zionism. This was part of political deals upon which it was formed and included the powers of governmental coalition parties such as the agreement with Religious Zionism about its programs and declared policies towards the Palestinian people. This is considered as being an official mandate to violate the Palestinian field rights. 

This mandate has been enhanced by appointing Itamar Ben-Gvir as Minister of National Security and Bezalel Smotrich as Finance Minister and as a minister in the Interior Ministry. The first figure is the one who stormed [2] Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli forces in January 2023. He led the flag marches with settlers and was a reason for the outbreak of the events of “Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood" [3] in 2021. He incited on performing religious prayers and Talmudic rituals which threaten the Jordanian guardianship over the Islamic holy places. The second figure supervises the civil administration in the West Bank. He was responsible for enhancing and expanding settlements and establishing new ones as well as supplying them with infrastructure projects.

On the eve of the vote of confidence regarding the Netanyahu government, the governmental coalition of the Knesset Secretariat presented the "outlines document” which includes two items related to the positions of the Palestinian and Arab files in the new government as follows: [4]

1- Enhancing the status of Jerusalem, deepening settlement, and fighting "violence": The first item of the document stipulated that “the Jewish people have an exclusive and indivisible right over all areas of Israeli land. The government will push for developing settlements across Israel, Galilee, the Negev, the Golan Heights, Judea, and Samaria. The government will work to protect national security and provide personal protection for individuals through fighting violence and terrorism strictly. We will work to enhance the status of Jerusalem.” 

The transformations shown by the Israeli government within its public document have not emerged because of the last elections and its outcome. During the electoral campaigns and prior to them, the partisan stances supporting settlement and rejecting resuming the political negotiations and the “two-state solutions” were clearer. However, the complexity of these positions has increased through the control held by the religious wings over the country. They have been delegated broad powers including Smotrich who has a mandate to implement his plan known as “the decisiveness plan” [5] which coincides with the Likud Party's program regarding settlement in the West Bank, and countering Palestinian control in Area C as well as resisting all pressures and attempts to reduce Israeli control over the West Bank. [6]

2- Expanding the circle of peace with the Arab countries and developing alliances with them: The outlines document includes the Israeli government’s intention to push for peace with all neighboring states through keeping Israeli security, historical and national interests as well as deepening cooperation with the "Abraham Accords" states through commitment and cooperation between ministries to advance this. The government will examine solutions and work to push for new peace agreements to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

In that sense, the Arab-Israeli accords are endorsed by the Israeli government which ratifies expanding their circle within the framework of what it declares to achieve this goal and the measures it takes. The clearest evidence for that is Netanyahu’s statements that he aspires to and looks for a diplomatic breakthrough with Saudi Arabia and establishing official relations with it [7]. He realizes the religious position of KSA as being the bastion of the Sunni Islam and that it launched the Arab peace initiative in 2002.

Secondly: The manifestations of normalizing Arab-Israeli relationships and their outcomes:

On September 15th 2020, Israel signed with the UAE and Bahrain a US-sponsored agreement to normalize their relations. Later, Sudan and Morocco joined them. The accords were based upon the common strategic, economic, and commercial interests among their members. The accords which were activated 28 months ago have several manifestations as summarized below:

1- Normalization with UAE: The Abraham Accords included 16 fields of Israeli-Emirati cooperation, including the environment, agriculture, water, and food security as well as commercial areas such as civil aviation, tourism, energy, science, and technology [8]. After signing these agreements, Israel opened its embassy in Abu Dhabi and its consulate in Dubai while the UAE opened its embassy in Israel. The agreements led to launching the Negev Forum, which held its first meeting in Israel in 2022, and its second meeting in Abu Dhabi in 2023. Partnership agreements between the UAE and Israel have continued. Jordan joined one of them by signing a declaration of intent to discuss a joint energy and water project. The UAE announced plans to invest $10 billion in and with Israel, including investments in emerging technology companies, major projects, and investment cooperation. [9]

2- Normalization with Bahrain: Bahrain launched its diplomatic relations with Israel after concluding a joint agreement between the two countries. Few weeks later, this was followed by the signing of a number of cooperation protocols between the two countries in the fields of finance, investment, trade, economy, tourism, aviation, communications, culture, science, technology, and agriculture. After that, the two countries signed an agreement to enhance intelligence cooperation, conduct joint military exercises between them, and achieve cooperation between the defense industries of the two countries. [10]

3- Normalization with Sudan: Sudan’s preconditions to normalize relations with Israel were based upon removing its name from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, obtaining a package of economic aid, and facilitating its access to loans from international financial institutions. The first step to activate this deal began with the declaration of US President Donald Trump that his administration is ready to omit Sudan from the list and unblock the Sudanese assets in Washington. In response to these moves, Sudan worked to remove obstacles that stand in the way of establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel. The most important of which came when the Sudanese government passed a legislation to reverse the boycott. On the backstage of these developments, the Israeli officials began visiting Sudan and building alliances with the Sudanese military and security service. Negotiations were held about Sudanese refugees in Israel which agreed to return the refugees to their homeland. Moreover, they began discussions on border security as well as cooperation in the field of intelligence, and combating terrorism. Thus, the security and military aspects have dominated the understandings and the mutual agreements between the two states. [11]

4- Normalization with Morocco: Since Morocco entered the path of normalizing relations with Israel, there has been intensified cooperation between the two parties in several areas. They signed a framework agreement for security cooperation which allows Morocco to acquire high-tech Israeli security equipment as well as cooperation in operational planning, research, and development. Israeli Company Ratio Petroleum announced signing a partnership with Rabat to explore offshore gas fields off the coast of Dakhla in the Western Desert [12]. This was followed by partnership agreements in the fields of trade exchanges and the tourism sector as well as memorandums of understanding including water, cultural, artistic, and professional exchanges, university education, scientific research, and bilateral legal cooperation. Furthermore, Morocco hosted six economic and investment forums that discussed strengthening relations in these areas between the two parties.

As for the future of cooperation and the fate of the Abraham accords considering the political transformations that Israel has witnessed in recent months, there are a number of scenarios as follow:

The first scenario: This scenario includes the continuation of the status quo without any impact on the normalization relationships by the Israeli transformations and policies such as escalating against Palestinians. During the first month of the inauguration of the Israeli government, the West Bank witnessed waves of Israeli attacks which killed 30 Palestinians. Additionally, the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque were stormed under the protection of the security and police forces (most notably the storming of Itamar Ben Gvir). Moreover, the village of Al-Araqib in the Negev was demolished and seized to build settlements. Likewise, the village of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem was stormed by ministers, Knesset members, and settlers to deport, demolish, and Judaize it. Under these circumstances, the Arab-Israeli relations have remained unchanged as the Arab states just condemned the Israeli attacks. However, such condemnation and criticism have not been translated to practical measure except for the UAE’s demand to hold a session of the Security Council [13] to discuss the issue of "Ben Gvir" storming Al-Aqsa Mosque. The first meeting of the Negev Forum was held in Abu Dhabi after these developments with the participation of the 6 state members in continuation of what was agreed upon during the ministerial meeting held in March 2022, in Negev. [14]

The second scenario: It is revolving around expanding the Abraham Accords. Developing the accords and expanding them by adding other parties occupy a great importance in Netanyahu's foreign moves. It is expected that he will move in a path which focuses on adding non-Arab Islamic states to the course of agreements like Indonesia and Turkey. He will exploit the fact that there has been ongoing contact for two years between Israel and the US on one hand and Indonesia on the other hand to add it to the accords. As for Turkey, its economic crisis could push it to join the Abraham accords, especially if Netanyahu succeeds to deliver it a tempting offer such as his willingness to develop joint relations, which were officially resumed in 2022, to broader economic and security horizons. Moreover, Israel can mediate within the “Mediterranean Gas Forum” to find a formula that would achieve some of Ankara’s interests and ease the regional tensions in East Mediterranean. [15]

The third scenario: This scenario depends on the developments of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. If Israel continues to tighten on Palestine, this would halt the official Palestinian-Israeli relationships and dismantle the Palestinian authority. This would lead to an open confrontation with Israel which may develop into a third Intifada. During preparing this paper, the Palestinian authority announced a number of decisions including halting the security coordination with Israel to protest its policies and attacks against Palestinians in Jenin, in the northern West Bank. [16] This scene or the so-called “the explosion scenario” would create an Arab public opinion which push to stop normalization before being joined by new states and opening regional relationships and alliances with Israel. 


Although the Abraham accords opened the door of cooperation between Israel and the 4 countries involved and achieved varying gains for all these parties during the past two years, the formation of the "Netanyahu" government - the most extremist in the history of Israel - produced important challenges at both Palestinian and Arab levels. This is related to the Israeli government's greed and policies which would deepen the disputes with the Arab states. This may suspend the Abraham accords or at least slow their path despite the attempts to maintain the partnership economically and politically. This necessitates that the Arab states - whether the parties of the Arahsm Accords or others - have to resist these policies, especially amid the international repulsion towards the structure of the Israeli government. This would be attained by working to reduce tension in the region, as a prelude to advance the peace trajectory and meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people as a final outcome of the stability and the continuation of the accords. 

Azzam Shaath

Writer and researcher specializing in Palestinian affairs and human rights issues


[1] According to the Israeli Elections Commission, the far-right camp led by Benjamin Netanyahu won 64 seats, distributed among 32 seats for the Likud Party, 18 seats for United Torah Judaism and Shas and 14 seats for the Religious Zionist Alliance. As for the camp for change, the Yesh Atid party led by Lapid won 24 seats, while 12 seats were won by the National Camp, 6 seats by Yisrael Beiteinu , 5 seats by the United List and 4 seats by the Labor Party. The United Arab List(Ra'am) won 5 seats while Meretz and the Arab Democratic Assembly failed to achieve the threshold to enter the Knesset.

[2] Extremist “Itamar Ben Gvir storms Al-Aqsa Mosque with heavy security,” Palestinian News and Information Agency (Wafa), 3/1/2023

[3] The events of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, Independent Arabia, 2/16/2022

[4] The outlines of the Netanyahu government, Sama News Agency, 12/28/2022.

[5] Mohammad Mahmoud Al-Sayed, The Hard Partnership: Does “Religious Zionism” Impose Its Priorities on the Netanyahu Government?, Abu Dhabi: Future Center for Advanced Research and Studies, 7/12/2022.

[6] Abdulalim Mohammed, the Second Coup in Israeli Politics, in: Israel at a Crossroads: Internal Challenges and the Absence of a Settlement, Cairo: Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, November 2022, p. 13

[7] "Benjamin Netanyahu" plans to follow up on the normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia, Maan News Agency, 12/16/2022.

[8] Daniel Schatz, TThe Abraham Accords: Politico-Economic Drivers and Opportunities, Abu Dhabi: Trends Research and Advisory Center , 11/15/2020.

[9] Two years since the Abrahamic Accords, Al-Ittihad newspaper, UAE, 9/15/2022.

[10] Maher Al-Sharif, The Arab-Israeli Normalization Train Accelerates: Bahrain, after Morocco, Signs a Security Deal with Israel Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 7/2/2022.

[11] Sami Sabri Abdulqawi, Israel and Sudan: The Stakes of Normalization and the Approach to Supporting the Military Component, Beirut: Journal of Palestinian Studies, Issue 131, summer 2022, pp. 63-67.

[12] Ibtisam Al-Katbi, Indications of the Strategic Momentum Gained by the Abrahamic Accords, Abu Dhabi: Emirates Policy Center, 4/7/2022.

[13] The United Nations reiterates its call to respect the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, UN News, 5/1/2023.

[14] The Negev Forum working groups meetings kicked off in Abu Dhabi , Sky News Arabia, 1/9/2023.

[15] Saeed Okasha, Israel’s Directions to Deal with Six Foreign Issues in 2023, Abu Dhabi: The Future Center for Advanced Research and Studies, 12/29/2022.

[16] Security coordination with the occupation government no longer in place , Palestinian News, and Information Agency (Wafa), 1/26/2023.

PalestineIsraelNetanyahuAbraham AccordsArab Israeli