UAE’s Mars mission is a gamechanger for MidEast, Israel – analysis

The fact that Israel and the UAE both had important milestones last year points to how important the current relations are.


The UAE’s mission to Mars is a major achievement for the Gulf country and comes just seven months after it launched its first interplanetary mission.

The Hope spacecraft made its way to Mars amid important developments in the region. The Abraham Accords were announced and signed, and more than 100,000 Israelis went to Dubai. The UAE and Israel have become leaders in vaccinating their public. Both countries also face challenges ahead, but in general they represent leading technology sectors in the region.

Back in July, the Hope spacecraft took off at dawn in Japan and made its way to Mars. It was reported at the time that the concept dated back to 2014 and was intended to inspire a new generation and also celebrate the country’s 50th anniversary. This was a big deal for the UAE, the Gulf and the region. Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador in the US, praised the effort. He harkened back to the years of hard work and dedication it took.

Israel’s SpaceIL successfully launched Beresheet spacecraft in February 2019 but failed to land it on the moon in August 2019. Israel, which is a leader in putting satellites into space, has said that it will try again. The UAE is now the fifth country to reach Mars. Both are now major space powers. China and America’s NASA also have spacecraft on the way to Mars this year.

The UAE’s Burj Khalifa, the giant building in Dubai, lit up in celebration when it was announced the mission was successful on Tuesday evening. The team behind the mission have an average age of 27 and is 35% women, CNN reported. Meanwhile in Israel the satellite program also showcases the country’s abilities. The Ofek launch in 1988 made Israel the eight country in the world with a launch capability. Ofek-16 was launched in July 2020 from Palmachim.

The fact that Israel and the UAE both had major milestones last year points to how important the current relations are. Israel and the UAE have many shared interests, whether it is a shared regional outlook about threats and instability, or the fact both countries are close partners of the United States. Both countries are also pioneering technology, whether it is things like Fin Tech or Food Tech or other sectors, many of which have been on display or will be soon in joint ventures and exhibitions in the UAE which Israelis are taking part in. For instance, Israeli companies flocked to GITEX last year and they hope to be at IDEX in Abu Dhabi this month and also GISEC this summer.

The importance of the Mars mission is also an attempt to illustrate how the UAE is building and accomplishing things while in other countries in the region there are sectarian conflicts and war.

For instance, in Lebanon an important critic of Hezbollah named Lokamn Slim was recently assassinated. Turkey has been supporting extremists in northern Syria, and Iran is fanning extremists like Hezbollah and the Houthis. The slogans and behavior of these terror groups, militias and mafias are all basically the same. They don’t build universities or launch rockets into space. All they pioneer is more dangerous military rockets.

Unsurprisingly, in response, Israel has created a multi-layered air defense system which is now a marvel of the world. All of those investments could have been plowed into more space missions and education, if it were not for Iran’s threats and other threats.

However, the overall lesson is that Israel has succeeded in not only defending itself but pioneering technology. The UAE also balances its investments in defense and in missions like Mars. For instance it is seeking more munitions, F-35s and drones from the US. Israel also looks to be moving forward on new warplane and helicopter deals with the United States. In the end, these sophisticated weapons are defensive in nature. The new US administration has sought to reduce conflict in the region by support Riyadh’s self-defense but not its war in Yemen.

What does that have to do with Mars?

Ostensibly, not much, because space is supposed to be a place of hope and peace, as the UAE’s spacecraft notes. However, the wider picture is that the Middle East’s most successful pioneering states when it comes to advanced technology and space are Israel and the UAE. States linked to them, from India to Greece, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as Egypt and Jordan, are the stale states of the region. They are the ones offering a greater message of hope for future generations, than the sectarian extremism flowing from Tehran and Ankara.