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Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Mideast Peacemaker

He upended geopolitics in September when he normalized relations with Israel, the first time that’s happened in the region since Jordan did it 26 years ago.


Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The decision by the United Arab Emirates’ de facto leader could prove to be the most consequential diplomatic breakthrough in the Middle East in a generation. MBZ, as he’s widely known, has pursued an aggressive foreign policy, deploying military power (participating in wars in Yemen and Libya) and engaging in economic activity (investing in ports along the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa) to allow his tiny country to play an outsize role in regional and international affairs. Although the agreement with Israel has no timeline, it swiftly made MBZ a pioneer: Bahrain and Sudan followed the UAE’s example, and other Muslim states are said to be contemplating it, eager to get their hands on Israeli technology and military supplies and add partners to an alliance against Iran—not to mention scoring points with Washington. Their enthusiasm could grow as the economic fruits of diplomacy become evident; the agreement between the UAE and Israel is expected to lead to bilateral trade of $2 billion a year, eventually rising to $6.5 billion, according to Israel’s finance ministry.