The historic peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel is an incontrovertible success of US President Donald Trump’s “jobs for peace” carrot-vs-stick approach to foreign and domestic policy.
The UAE-Israel Abraham Accord is the first major breakthrough in the Middle East since the breakdown of the Oslo peace talks among Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan in the mid-1990s and the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty of 1994.
The Oslo peace accords failed as all the participants – including then-US president Bill Clinton – were completely oblivious to the fact that Palestinian living standards collapsed by some 80% during talks focused on “land for peace” rather than an objective “jobs for peace” benchmark.
The “Peace to Prosperity” Middle East peace plan of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner ensured only that the economic, and not the political, aspects of the plan were viable. The proposed Israeli annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley risked toppling King Abdullah II of Jordan and was anathema to rest of the Arab world and Europe.
“The annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley was something no one wanted, not even Bibi Netanyahu,” UAE state TV news anchor Suhail Alzubaidi said, commending the bravery of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for sacrificing support from Israel’s right and risking a possible prison sentence for corruption by agreeing to the peace deal.
In fact, Netanyahu’s past career at Boston-based Bain Capital, a private equity giant founded by one-time presidential nominee Mitt Romney, taught him that economic growth, not war, is the only effective means to win and sustain peace.
Much credit for the historic peace accord between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain celebrated at the Oval Office on September 15 can be given to quiet behind-the-scenes work of the US president’s daughter and closest confidante, Ivanka Trump.
An unsung hero of the Israel-UAE peace accord is Franco Nuschese, the owner of Georgetown’s celebrated Cafe Milano that serves as the networking center for national and global power brokers. He opened a Cafe Milano branch in Abu Dhabi some four years ago.
While the Israeli prime minister was dining in Cafe Milano, Nuschese and his staff discreetly arranged an unscheduled informal meet between Netanyahu and Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the US and government minister, where they had a long-ranging discussion on their mutual fears over Iran and potential economic ties.
In fact, President Trump’s pragmatic business-first approach to foreign policy has already unlocked an unprecedented US$500 billion in cross-border deal flows among the UAE, Israel and the United States that will radically change the landscape of global business for decades to come.
The first big winner is Israel’s foremost venture capitalist and investment banker, Edouard Cukierman.
Cukierman, who has the largest portfolio of Israeli biotech and technology startups through his Tel Aviv-based Catalyst Investment Fund, is also Israel’s leading mid-market M&A banker through his family’s Cukierman & Co Investment House.
UAE sovereign wealth funds Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Mubadala (Cleveland Clinic) are already looking at companies in Cukierman’s portfolio as investment vehicles for cross UAE-US mergers and acquisitions.
Cukierman was also one of the leading Israeli businessmen who attempted to make peace with the Palestinians through business-to-business cooperation under the Oslo peace accords and works closely with the Palestinian Masri business family.
UAE Economy Minister Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri said the peace deal with Israel means all talk of a Fourth Industrial Revolution “that used to be theoretical last year is now practicable.”
Al Marri said investments under the deal would include Palestinian companies and also third countries (such as Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Mexico and Mozambique).
The key Palestinian deal maker will be Bashar Masri, founder of the West Bank’s Rawabi city development and developer of the Hyatt Hotel and Greg Norman-developed golf resort in the Red Sea city of Aqaba, Jordan.
More important, Masri has been named to the advisory council of the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the powerful US government loan and risk insurance agency that has earmarked $50 billion for Middle East peace plan-related investments and initiatives.
The decision by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain to join the UAE in recognizing Israel means the small Gulf state can regain its position as a leading financial center in the region and be the main port of call related to Saudi Arabian inward and outward investments.
Howard University Divinity School, which has been left abandoned in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC, is a subject of high-level talks for an investment by leaders of Bahrain and the UAE as a permanent symbol of a peace inclusive of all Muslims, Christians and Jews in the spirit of Martin Luther King, who inspired the whole concept of “Prosperity for Peace.”
Trump’s Fourth Industrial Revolution has a price tag. He is demanding that the UAE, Bahrain and Israel significantly cut back their economic and political ties to China as part of the deal.
Japan, while welcoming the deal in principle, remains very concerned the new anti-Iran coalition means it may soon be cut off from cheap Iranian oil after years of building a relationship with that country.
Peter K Semler is the chief executive editor and founder of Capitol Intelligence. Previously, he was the Washington, DC, bureau chief for Mergermarket (Dealreporter/Debtwire) of the Financial Times and headed political and economic coverage of the US House of Representatives and Senate.