What does this new economic partnership mean for the bigger picture of our little country?
Covid 19 interrupted so many things we all took for granted: good health and immediate access to health care; going out for coffee; sending our kids off to school; going to work; having a job; travelling out of the country.
Everything came to an abrupt halt. So many of my Family Law clients are rethinking their wills and the management of property they own outside of Israel. I’ve had a large uptick in calls inquiring about divorce. And quite a few of us, myself included, have family living abroad whom we have no idea when we’ll see again. Air travel has been a lifeline to those we love. And of course the travel industry has been gutted.
Are things looking up?
Now that flights are resuming in a very limited capacity, there are many stumbling blocks for those who want to go abroad. The details are confusing at best. How many flights will there be and how frequently? What countries are Israelis allowed to enter? Who can come here? With so many embassy and government offices closed, are we able to renew passports and get visas? Is everyone required to do a Covid test at the airport? How much will it cost? How high will the price of travel insurance go? And the quarantine rules seem to change daily.
And yet, we have this groundbreaking new economic deal with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan which brings both promise and uncertainty.
So, what do the opening skies and this new economic partnership mean for us in Israel?
I don’t think this limited resumed air travel will have much effect on the massive economic decimation of our economy. It definitely won’t restore our tourist industry – restaurants, pubs, museums, guides and other cultural businesses. But I hope it will be the start of at least some improvement. And I believe the new peace agreements with these three Arab countries (hopefully more will follow suit) will have a limited significant short-term effect on the economy. Perhaps both will bring an economic and psychological boost to us in the long term.
So, even though these two positive developments seem like pouring a trickle of water on the burning house of our economy, at least it’s a start.
The approach the U.S. administration took to brokering these peace deals was pretty radical. They took a problem viewed in one way by so many people for so long, and refocused the lense. The Palestinians had always been at the center of any proposed deal and we Israelis were repeatedly called upon to make concessions for peace. We all know how that’s turned out.
In this new approach, the Palestinian issue was mostly put aside – delayed if you will – while other’s interests were formalized. We, in Israel have paid a price for the UAE peace agreement (the non-annexation of Judea and Samaria). However, I don’t believe it should be our focus for now. (I acknowledge I’m ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian issue here). Granted, these places are part of our biblical homeland and theologically they should be part of our country. But I can’t help but feel, that all the leaders in these negotiations need to have a different focus right now. In my view we’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future to adjust things a little more towards our national best interests.
The goal of our leaders (and leaders everywhere for that matter), should be to keep all citizens safe and healthy while at the same time concentrating on saving as much of our economy as possible until the Covid crisis has passed.
Once these two goals have been achieved, everything else can be addressed. Because without our physical and economic health, very few of our other pressing issues can be addressed at all.