The agreement for "full normalisation" of diplomatic, economic and all relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates was the revelation of one of the worst kept secrets in the Middle East. Namely, that on key issues facing the region, these two countries are on the same page and have been co-operating for a while.
The relevant files in this regard are: the challenge represented by the regional ambitions of Iran (Israel's chief security concern); Turkish regional expansion, bearing the banner of Sunni political Islam in its Muslim Brotherhood iteration (the particular focus for the Emiratis); and the implications for these of an emergent lighter US footprint in the Middle East, alongside the growing influence of the Chinese in the region.
Iran, as a central element of its quest for regional hegemony, seeks to dominate the strategic waterways of the Persian Gulf. It makes its presence felt through disruption. In the past the US, with its naval and air power, was the guarantor for the small Gulf emirates against the further advance of Tehran's ambitions.
Last year, however, harassment of Emirati and Saudi shipping by the naval force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, the downing of a US drone, and a major strike on September 14 of the Saudi-owned Aramco oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais led to no US reaction.
The US acted in the end, of course, going in hard and killing Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and key Iraqi ally Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes on January 3 this year. But it was well noted in Abu Dhabi (and Riyadh) that this American reaction came only after the IRGC killed a US contractor.
There is a harsh US sanctions regime in place against Iran. It is taking its toll. But the region is waiting for November 3. It is a near universal belief that if Joe Biden wins the US presidential race, the policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran will not be long for this world.
Even if Donald Trump stays, "maximum pressure" is a way of wielding a large financial stick, so that the physical means of coercion can be moved elsewhere. The Americans are shifting focus from the region. This is a relative, not an absolute, process. The US is not "leaving" the Middle East or abandoning its allies. Rather, it is shifting back to what used to be called "offshore balancing", relying on local allies to preserve order and face down enemies in the region. But the implications are significant. So why is this happening?
The US is no longer a consumer of Gulf oil. As of November last year, it is an energy-exporting country. Oil brought the Americans to the Gulf region. Without the need for it, the safety and integrity of the fragile Arab monarchies in the area is of somewhat less urgency. The Gulf monarchies are acutely aware of this direction of events.
More broadly, Americans are tired of the Middle East, for understandable reasons. Trump's description of Syria as containing nothing but "sand and death" was unfair, but it encapsulates American frustration with the region's endless and seemingly insoluble disputes and conflicts.
The US has been in Iraq for 17 years (with a break between 2011 and 2014). US bases and positions are subject to nearly daily attacks from the rockets and missiles of the Iran-supported Shia militias.
In Afghanistan, the 19-year US deployment has begun its final phase as the withdrawal of forces begins. The Taliban, meanwhile, is in the process of tightening its siege around Kabul, even as peace talks between it and the Afghan government continue.
There will be no further major US ground commitments in the Middle East, and the current ones are in the process of wrapping up. The new challenge is the Asia-Pacific region. The Chinese effort to build a military capable of challenging the US by mid-century is set to overshadow all other matters.
The US drawdown in the region is perceived across the Middle East as a bipartisan consensus. The players are rearranging themselves accordingly.
The UAE wants to avoid knuckling under to the Iranians if it can. It is by no means helpless in its own right. It has capable intelligence services, a small but effective army (in particular the Presidential Guard, commanded by an Australian officer, Major General Mike Hindmarsh) and a well -equipped air force.
Still, open and direct relations with the country with the strongest air power and furthest-seeing intelligence services in the region (Israel), both of which are engaged in an undeclared war against Iran, seems a sensible insurance policy, in the circumstances. The Emiratis apparently have elected take out such a policy.
The other challenge that concerns the UAE is that of Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood-style political Islam that it avows. The UAE is particularly worried about the potential this trend has for subversion within the Emirates. In recent years, it has been proactive, indeed frenetic, in its efforts to trace, monitor and reverse the advance of the Brotherhood.
Today, the UAE is aligned with Egypt and General Khalifa Haftar in Libya against the Turkish and Muslim Brotherhood-backed Fayez al-Sarraj government in Tripoli. The UAE, backed by Saudi Arabia, is seeking to create a network of alliances to challenge and turn back Turkish ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean.
Israel's relations with Turkey formally remain but are in the deep freeze, with no sign of improvement on the horizon (though trade remains brisk).
Ankara is domiciling an active Hamas office in Istanbul. It recently was revealed that the Turks have begun to offer citizenship to Hamas operatives resident in Turkey. An article in The Times last month claimed that Yossi Cohen, head of Israel's external intelligence agency, Mossad, said in conversation with his Emirati, Egyptian and Saudi counterparts that Turkey today constitutes a greater threat to Israel than does Iran.
As the contest with the Turks in the eastern Mediterranean heats up, the Emiratis perceive Israel as a natural partner in that arena, too. The longstanding dispute between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus over natural gas resources in the area is escalating.
In response to a Turkish dispatch of a survey ship accompanied by warships to the disputed area on August 10, Israel issued a clear statement of support for Greece for the first time. The statement, issued by Israel's Foreign Ministry, asserted that "Israel is following closely as tension rises in the eastern Mediterranean. Israel expresses its full support and solidarity with Greece." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later reaffirmed this position.
The latest statements from the government of Israel, along with the announcement of the normalisation agreement suggest that Israel is set to ally with the UAE and its allies in this key and developing arena.
The announcement of this agreement comes in the wake of a signing of a strategic pact between Iran and China. The deal is set to provide China with cheap Iranian oil for the next 25 years. Beijing, in turn, is supposed to provide Tehran with ($550bn) in investment across the same period. It would be simplistic, however, to begin at this stage to imagine a new Cold War in which Israel and the UAE as US-aligned states face off against a Beijing-linked Iran, with each part of larger US and Chinese-led regional alliances.
For one thing, both Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem themselves have highly developed relations with Beijing. Second, it is not clear the extent to which the promise of major Chinese investment in Iran will be realised. Chinese firms are likely to be cognisant of the threat of US secondary sanctions. This will probably continue to act as a considerable deterrent.
Both the UAE and Israel, meanwhile, are likely to continue to attempt an uneasy balancing act between their strategic alliance with the US and their trade relationships with Beijing.
UAE-Israel relations are informed by their joint pro-US alignment. But the driving force behind them is regional rather than global alignments and challenges.
The camp of broadly pro-US states concerned by US partial disengagement and now clubbing ever closer together consists of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE. The normalisation announcement last month means that the UAE joins Egypt and Jordan as countries on that list with openly declared and formal relations with the Jewish state (as opposed to undeclared and informal ones.)
So the sudden outbreak of peace between Israel and the UAE has little to do with the much-discussed West Bank annexation or not. Its most important element isn't the possibility for Israelis to visit Burj Khalifa, or for Emiratis to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
There are real prospects for economic co-operation set to be unlocked by the agreement. Cyber security is an obvious area for potential co-operation, as is water use in desert agriculture. But ultimately the agreement is part of the changing strategic picture in the region. It is a direct product of the shifting power relations taking place in response to the lighter American footprint in the Middle East, and the ambitions of Iran and Turkey to reshape the regional order.
Jonathan Spyer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a Ginsburg/Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum.