President Trump’s announcement Thursday of an agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations will go down in history as a remarkable turning point that I believe will lead to normal relations between Israel and many more of its Arab neighbors.

The historic agreement establishing diplomatic relations and cooperative relations involving trade, technology, security, health care, investment, tourism and other areas between Israel and the UAE is long overdue and will benefit both nations.

Even more significantly, I think the agreement will be a reset like no other and the dawn of a new era in not only foreign relations and geopolitics in the Middle East, but in establishing a deepening understanding and engagement between Muslims, Jews and Christians everywhere.

I was one of the few Muslims in the East Room of the White House in January when I witnessed President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announce their agreement on a vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Tragically for the Palestinian people, their leaders have refused to even discuss the Trump plan to bring peace between them and the Israelis. This refusal causes grave harm to ordinary Palestinians, whose lives would be much improved under a fair and just peace settlement like the one proposed by Trump and accepted by Netanyahu.

As a Muslim, I know there are no theological or historical reasons for Muslims and Jews to be enemies. In fact, throughout much of history Muslims and Jews have lived together in peace in many Muslim-majority nations, in what is now Israel, and in other nations as well.

Cooperation rather than confrontation between Israel and its neighbors — and between Jews and Muslims — makes sense on both a practical and a moral level.

I know that many Muslims feel the same way as I do about the need to make peace with our Jewish brothers and sisters, although many stay silent about this to avoid criticism and threats of violence from some fellow Muslims.Video

I still vividly recall my Muslim parents weeping in October 1981 when they heard news of the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat — the courageous statesman who signed the Camp David Peace Accords with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, brokered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1978. I was only 13, but realized even then that a great man had been taken from the world much too soon.

Sadat was a career military officer, a patriot and a proud Muslim who forged the path to peace with Israel. Until Thursday, Egypt and Jordan were the only Arab nations that have signed peace treaties and established diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, making the new agreement between Israel and the UAE all the more significant.

While Sadat led his nation in the Yom Kippur War against Israel in 1973, he wisely concluded that making peace with the Jewish state would provide the greatest benefit to the Egyptian people. The decision by leaders of the UAE to follow in his footsteps is gratifying.

Cooperation rather than confrontation between Israel and its neighbors — and between Jews and Muslims — makes sense on both a practical and a moral level.

The UAE’s decision to move forward to establish normal relations with Israel is a sure sign that leaders of other Arab nations will also come to the realization that it makes no sense to allow Palestinian opponents of peace with Israel to hold the future of the region hostage and require a perpetual state of hostilities with the Jewish state.

Much credit for the Israel-UAE agreement and the earlier Israeli-Palestinian peace plan goes to Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law. He and other U.S. officials have worked hard to establish personal friendships with Muslim leaders across the Middle East, which leads me to conclude that the agreement announced Thursday will be followed by the establishment of relations between Israel and more of its neighbors.

It is no surprise that the seven-member federation of the United Arab Emirates — now under the leadership of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and commander in chief of the UAE’s formidable armed forces, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed — has become the first Muslim nation to normalize relations with Israel since Egypt and Jordan did so. His courage and long-term vision means Israel and the UAE will now have embassies in each other’s capitals.

Muslims will be able to fly directly from the UAE to Israel to pray at the third-holiest site of Islam –- the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Israelis will be able to visit, work and trade with the UAE — one of the most intensely forward-thinking regions in the world. They will be able to admire the remarkable Shaykh Bin Zayed Mosque, peruse the astonishing art the region has amassed and see the world’s preeminent Falcon hospital — a personal favorite of mine, as a physician.

Israelis and residents of the UAE will also be able to get to meet and know each other on a personal basis, establishing both friendships and professional relationships. The UAE is home to some of the most educated and empowered Muslim women in the region, including Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri the UAE’s first female fighter pilot, who led the first airstrike her country launched against ISIS. I’m sure she would get along well with Israeli military women I know.

All of us who are friends of peace between Israel and the Arab and Muslim world should now hope that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia follows the path of his neighbor and ally the UAE in establishing normalized relations with Israel.

It is in the self-interest of all Muslim nations— including the 16 remaining Arab nations that continue the boycott of Israel — to at long last accept the fact that the modern state of Israel exists and is here to stay.

Crown Prince Mohammed of the UAE has long been a behind-the-scenes source of wisdom, guidance and strategic policymaking for Crown Prince Mohammed of Saudi Arabia, and both nations have worked together in an intensely difficult time.

The neighboring countries have together dealt with the rise of the ISIS terrorist group; the deepening hostilities and undeclared open conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran; the rise of the terrorist group and Iranian proxy Hezbollah; the Syrian civil war; and the dangerous threat they face from Iran itself.

Israel can be a natural ally to Arab nations against these threats. Let’s hope and pray that the announcement by President Trump establishing ties between Israel and the UAE is followed by more such agreements with Arab and Muslim nations. That would serve America’s best interests and the best interests of all the countries following the road to peace and cooperation.