By Dr. Michael Rydelnik
Even if we concede for the moment that the Jewish people’s continuing presence is evidence for the reliability of the Bible, we are well within our rights to raise other concerns. What, for example, is the connection between the Jewish people and the highly contested real estate in the Middle East that makes up modern-day Israel? For some, the relationship between God’s covenant promise to preserve the Jewish people and the equally emphasized “Promised Land” is highly problematic. Today even some committed Jews and Christians may wonder what relationship the present-day State of Israel has with the land it sits on. In 1948, varying numbers of Orthodox Jews were horrified that anyone could even consider a Jewish state based upon modern notions of nationality in place of a kingdom under the Messiah’s reign. This sentiment persists today.
Yet, politics aside, it cannot be denied that not only have the children of Israel endured despite the harsh treatment they have received, but against all odds, after 2,000 years of exile, the Jewish people have once again returned to the Land of Israel as the biblical prophets promised they would. The Hebrew prophets foretold a day when God would draw His people back to Israel. Although centuries of dispersion caused this aspiration to retreat into the far background of Jewish life, it never fully disappeared. If nothing else, the hope that is voiced every year during Passover—“Next year in Jerusalem!”— serves as an annual reminder of the Jewish people’s lost heritage.
The Abraham Accords—a normalization of ties agreement signed in September 2020 between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain—have already brought dramatic changes to the region’s political climate. More changes are expected in the future. The agreement made history as it was the first time an Arab country established diplomatic relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. The purpose of the agreement was to foster development and cooperation in the fields of health, agriculture, tourism, energy, and the environment and to join forces against the threat of Iran.
Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, many positive results have followed. Sudan and Morocco likewise signed normalization agreements with Israel. Travel between the UAE and Israel has taken off, with more than 130,000 Israeli tourists visiting the nation since October 2020. Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for Israel’s El Al Airlines to fly between Israel and the UAE. In the United Arab Emirates, kosher restaurants are opening, and many of its citizens are taking Hebrew-language classes in order to do business with Israel.
These trends are likely to continue and positively impact Israel’s economy and political relationships with the surrounding Gulf states. Israel’s Economy Ministry estimates that the UAE-Israel deal alone will likely result in millions of dollars of profit in bilateral trade and investments in the coming years. “Exports to the UAE…could jump to an annual $300–$500 million. UAE investments in Israel were predicted to amount to up to $350 million a year,” according to the Economy Ministry’s assessment.
We cannot overestimate the impact if more Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia, follow the precedent set by the Abraham Accords and normalize relations with Israel. It could signify a possible shift in political focus that involves a greater emphasis on joining forces against Iran and a cooperation toward a better economic future as well as a decreased emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.