Explainer: Israel signs pacts with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates

September 16, 2020

On Tuesday, Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the United States signed a diplomatic pact known as the “Abraham Accords Peace Agreement.” Additionally, Israel and the UAE signed a separate agreement to establish diplomatic and economic ties between the two nations.

Last week the U.S., Bahrain, and Israel issued a joint statement announcing full diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Israel. Bahrain is only the fourth Arab country in the Middle East (after the UAE, Egypt and Jordan) to recognize the modern nation of Israel.

Where are Israel, UAE, and Bahrain located geographically?

The State of Israel is a country that intersects the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. Israel is bound by the Mediterranean Sea on its west, Lebanon and Syria border it to the north, Jordan to the east, Egypt to the southwest, and the Red Sea to the south.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is a small island nation in the Persian Gulf. Most of the country is on Bahrain Island, which is surrounded by 40 natural islands and an additional 51 artificial islands. Its closest neighbors in the Gulf are Qatar and Saudi Arabia. 

The United Arab Emirates is a sovereign state on the Arabian peninsula. It is bordered by the Gulf of Oman and Oman to the east, and Saudi Arabia to the south and west. The country also shares maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north.

What is the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement?

Despite the title, the Abraham Accords is not an actual peace treaty since none of the parties involved were at war (and Israel and the UAE have been secretly working together for years). The significance of the treaty is that it publicly codifies and expands an already existing arrangement between the three countries.

The Abraham Accords Declaration states

We, the undersigned, recognize the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom.

We encourage efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace among the three Ahrahamic religions and all humanity.

We believe that the best way to address challenges is through cooperation and dialogue and that developing friendly relations among States advances the interests of lasting peace in the Middle East and around the world.

We seek tolerance and respect for every person in order to make this world a place where all can enjoy a life of dignity and hope, no matter their race, faith or ethnicity.

We support science, art, medicine, and commerce to inspire humankind, maximize human potential and bring nations closer together.

We seek to end radicalization and conflict to provide all children a better future.

We pursue a vision of peace, security, and prosperity in the Middle East and around the world.

 In this spirit, we welcome and are encouraged by the progress already made in establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and its neighbors in the region under the principles of the Abraham Accords. We are encouraged by the ongoing efforts to consolidate and expand such friendly relations based on shared interests and a shared commitment to a better future.

What is the agreement between Israel and the UAE?

The agreement commits the two countries to work to advance the “cause of peace, stability and prosperity throughout the Middle East,” as well as to as well working together in the areas of finance and investment; civil aviation; visas and consular services; innovation, trade and economic relations; healthcare; science, technology and peaceful uses of outer-space; tourism, culture and sport; energy; environment; education; maritime arrangements; telecommunications and post; agriculture and food security; water; and legal cooperation.

Why are the countries making the agreement now?

Geopolitics is a political framework in which international affairs is examined in the context of culture, history, and geography, as well as day-to-day political events. The geopolitics of the Middle East is complex and multifaceted, which is not surprising considering the history of the region. Yet since the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948, a driving force in Middle Eastern geopolitics has been the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. 

The predominantly Muslim Arab states in the region have almost always sided with the Palestinians and against Israel, and made it a priority in their foreign policy. Many observers of the geopolitical situation assumed resolution of that conflict would be necessary before Arab states recognized the legitimacy of Israel. But over the last two decades, some of the Arab states have recognized that they share a common foe with Israel—Iran. Concern about minimizing the influence of Iran in the region has even trumped the question about what to do about Palestine. 

Israel and the UAE are unlikely to come into direct conflict since the capitals of Israel and the UAE are separated by 1,200 miles (about the same distance as Seattle and San Diego) and two nations (Saudia Arabia and Jordan). The UAE, though, is only 33 miles away Iran (across the Strait of Hormuz) and Israel borders Syria, a country that has a military alliance with Iran. Iran also funds Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., Israel, and the Arab League, of which the UAE is a member. Concerns about Iran gaining nuclear weapons has also shifted the geopolitical concerns of most states in the Middle East. 

What is the significance of the agreement?

While it’s too early to tell what the outcome of the treaty will be, it will likely affect the Israeli-Palestianian conflict, containment of Iran, and religious liberty in the UAE. 

Unlike in past agreements, the UAE did not require Israel to make significant concessions to the Palestinian cause. This has already been viewed by some as a betrayal by the Palestinians, and could lead to increased violence by radical factions. In response to the agreement, militants fired rockets into Israel from Gaza.

While it may cause more unrest in Gaza and the West Bank, the agreement may provide a check on Iraninan hostility. The U.S. reportedly enticed the UAE by offering to sell them weapons systems in exchange for the treaty with Israel. The package of weapons includes F-35 fighter jets, Reaper drones, and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare planes. This will strengthen the UAE’s ability to protect themselves against aggression by the Iranian government.

The accord states that the signatories will respect and promote religious freedom. The Constitution of the UAE provides for freedom of religion by established customs. But there are significant restrictions. According to Open Doors, Christians from other countries are free to worship privately in the UAE, but the government does not allow them to evangelize or pray in public. The death penalty remains the on-the-books punishment for converting from Islam, though it has not been used. The U.S. can, and should, use the agreement to push the UAE to be more open to expressions of religious liberty.

Photo Attribution:

Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24