The Abraham Accords would not have been possible without Mohammed bin Zayed's pioneering efforts and willingness to embrace the trailblazing proposals. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
One of the most intractable issues over the last 40 years has been the instability and hostilities in the Middle East. The conflicts between Israel and its neighbors, the persistent threat of terrorism, Al Qaeda, and ISIS have kept the region as a major international trouble-spot.
Mideast leaders and U.S. presidents from Clinton to Trump had invested enormous amounts of time and energy in trying to find a breakthrough peace formula - with no result.
All that changed on August 13, 2020, when President Donald J. Trump's designee for identifying a path forward, Jared Kushner, approached the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with a historic plan for a breakthrough. It was immediately pioneered by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. A historic peace agreement was unveiled.
On that date, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Israel issued a joint statement, announcing the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE. The agreement was formally called the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement: Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel. It was truly a historic announcement.
It is for this bold and stunning initiative that His Highness Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is Gatestone Institute's Man of the Year - 2021. The Abraham Accords would not have been possible without his pioneering efforts and willingness to embrace the trailblazing proposals. This was the first recognition of the State of Israel by a Middle East country since Jordan signed a peace accord in 1994. It was also the first of any country from the Gulf region.
Soon after the UAE signed the Abraham Accords, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco and Kosovo also joined. Credit goes to all of the leaders who have created this new momentum and framework for stability and a lasting peace. It took immense courage and leadership to be the first to embrace such a new paradigm.
Mohammed bin Zayed had also developed an impressive leadership team. His major confidant is his brother, H.H. Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Adviser. He stands out both for the breadth of his role and his ability to remain under the radar, as a pragmatic, probing and analytical man. He is described as "The Man of Difficult Missions": recently he met with the new president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, and with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and he has strong relations with both Israel and the United States.
Tahnoun bin Zayed works quietly and effectively in the background, assisting the Crown Prince and the UAE to be among the most positive, forward-looking countries today. Both men are transforming not only the UAE but the region.
Mohammed bin Zayed, known familiarly as MBZ, has made the UAE a country creating change in many more ways as well, on multiple other fronts that no one would have thought possible even a few years ago. Under his leadership, the UAE is opening up; it appears clearly committed to religious freedom and tolerance. He stresses the need for dialogue as the most effective means to avoid violence. It is evident from his strong and continuing embrace of the Abraham Accords that he values peace and peaceful co-existence.
In recent years the UAE has also advanced its role in the international community, and has been ranked consistently as one of the most generous donor states, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Over the years, the UAE has assisted more than 178 countries. Most recently, it has focused much of its assistance to help with COVID-19 issues. In this regard, more than 135 countries have benefited from its generosity.
Along with the unprecedented changes in the Middle East and the UAE's acceptance of increased global responsibility, Mohammed bin Zayed has been fostering internal reform and development. Below are just a sampling of some of his initiatives:
- The most wide-ranging, significant reform of the country's legal system. More than 40 laws are included in the changes, which represent the largest legal reform in the nation's 50-year history. Changes include stronger protections for women and domestic workers, and modernization of the business environment. It was a comprehensive and collaborative process that included the government and the private sector.
- The establishment of a comprehensive development initiative, "Projects of the 50". This initiative comprises new strategic ventures for the next 50 years to generate economic growth, internally and externally, in the public, private and international sectors.
- The launch of Expo 2020 Dubai, in which more than 192 countries are still participating.
- The establishment of the world's first international derivatives exchange to trade futures contracts for Murban crude, produced by the Abu Dhabi Oil Company (ADNOC).
- The successful Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) as well as the Dubai Airshow.
- The UAE's national book fair ranked as the world's largest in terms of buying and selling copyrights for 2021.
- The UAE won its bid to host the 27th Council of Museums (ICOM) General Conference in 2025 under the theme, "The Future of Museums in Rapidly Changing Communities."
- The formation of the "UAE Net-Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative", a national drive to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
- The UAE won a bid to host the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 28) in 2023, the world's most important annual global climate conference.
- In space initiatives, the UAE's Hope Probe successfully reached Mars. The UAE is releasing massive troves of data from that mission to the public.
- The UAE announced a probe to explore Venus and seven asteroids in the solar system, and announced a new group of astronauts, including the first Arab female astronaut, Noura Al Matrooshi.
- The UAE won membership in the UN Human Rights Council for the third time.
- The UAE issued a new law establishing the National Human Rights Institution; new paths streamlining customs, residency, and citizenship.
- The UAE has exhibited leadership in international sporting competitions, particularly, among other sports, in soccer, Asian boxing, the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship with the participation of more than 2,000 competitors from 75 countries, and the FINA World Swimming Championships and World Aquatics Festival, which featured 1,100 participants from 180 countries.
The UAE is a country of roughly 10 million residents. The initiatives being put forward by this small country, from government reform, space exploration, climate and humanitarian aid, to a breakthrough Middle East peace, highlights the UAE as a country that punches well above its weight. Most importantly, its efforts contribute significantly to the world becoming a safer and better place.
It is a country of many talented leaders, and the leadership of Mohammad bin Zayed has been demonstrated in a broad range of areas. He is helping to transform the UAE into a beacon of hope and change in the Middle East. We wish him, his brilliant close advisors, and the UAE future success in their many visionary and pace-setting initiatives.
Peter Hoekstra was US Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration. He served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the second district of Michigan and served as Chairman and Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is currently Chairman of the Center for Security Policy Board of Advisors, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.