Abu Dhabi’s top diplomat visited the Jewish State on the second anniversary of the Abraham Accord that normalized bilateral relations.
By Erin Viner
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid greeted United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in Jerusalem. After first holding private talks, the two leaders then expanded the meeting to include their respective teams.
The two commended one another on the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords peace pact between their nations.
Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, respectively; and the Abraham Accords to normalize relations with the UAE and Bahrain in 2020.
Senior Israelis who attended include Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, National Security Advisor Dr. Eyal Hulata, PMO Director General Na’ama Schultz, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General Alon Ushpiz, Prime Minister Lapid’s Military Secretary Maj.-Gen. Avi Gil and Israeli Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek.
The UAE personnel were Her Excellency Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation; Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth Minister; His Excellency Ahmed bin Ali Al Sayegh, Minister of State; and Ambassador to the State of Israel His Excellency Mohamed Mahmoud Fateh Ali Abdulla Al Khaja.
The agenda for the talks focused on the continued strengthening of ties between the nations toward increased prosperity, as well as for improvement of stability and security for all people in the region. The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister emphasized the desire to bolster economic development and cooperation in agriculture, energy, water and food security, as well as the hope to expand ties in these sectors with additional nations.
Trade between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi is expected to reach $2.5 billion by the end of 2022, due to intense efforts by both governments and the private sector.
Prime Minister Lapid presented the UAE Foreign Minister with a Torah translated into Arabic.
* (Israeli Prime Minister Lapid’s Full Remarks can be found below).
Israeli President Isaac Herzog also gave a warm welcome to UAE Foreign Minister Al Nahyan. He and First Lady Michal Herzog hosted an official luncheon in the Sheikh’s honor in the Great Hall of the President’s Residence in honor of the visiting diploma’s first visit to Jerusalem.
“The world looks at the Abraham Accords with awe and respect and says there’s a new Middle East in many ways, being created and moving forward,” said President Herzog said at the start of the event. The UAE Foreign Minister replied, “This is historic, but I think in many ways this is a relationship which very few thought that in two years it would be as successful.”
The Israeli leader added, “We welcome you here with open arms and open hearts. We welcome you to our home as dreamers watch a dream come true. Kindly extend our warmest wishes and salutations to your great leader, your president and brother, and our brother, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the leader of your country. This is a joyous celebration for all of us because it marks a paradigm change in the Middle East, of sounding new voices, of painting new horizons for our children and their future and a celebration of life and change. Ten or twenty years ago, as the Middle Eastern trajectory was fraught with conflict, no one could have imagined such a vision of peaceful cooperation, and much less foreseen the festivities including the one in this room.
It is therefore fitting that our treaty of friendship is named after our common ancestral father, Abraham. The Jewish interpretation of the biblical text, the Midrash, teaches us that when Abraham was a child, he smashed the false idols in his father’s home. Like Abraham we too are smashing false idols, meaning smashing false conventions, taking a sledgehammer to outdated beliefs holding us back. Our bold friendship shows our world like Abraham did that a better, different, more humane world is possible.”
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed thanked the President and First Lady Herzog, saying, “this is a privilege and an honor. First of all to be in Israel, to be with a great leader who not only has inspired our relationship but who has been throughout his history, his family’s history, a solid supporter of peace, of working together.” His Highness continued: “I am sure that with visionary leaders like you, Mr. President, we will achieve a lot together.”
The Herzogs and the Sheikh later together attended a reception hosted by the UAE Ambassador to Israel Khaja in celebration of the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020.
**(Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s Full Remarks at the reception can be found below).
* Israeli Prime Minister Lapid’s Full Remarks:
“Your Highness, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed,
This is an historic visit of a regional leader that will advance the regional architecture we have been building this past year in the Middle East. This is a visit of a strategic partner, that will strengthen economic and security ties between our countries. This is a visit of a close and dear friend, with whom I can talk about everything.
And my friend: we will indeed discuss everything during your visit here.
Cooperation between our countries is progressing at an unbelievable pace. Just a month and a half ago, the two of us took part in the virtual summit of the I2U2 initiative together with President Biden, Prime Minister Modi and President Mohammed bin Zayed. That economic cooperation initiative was born at a dinner you hosted in Washington together with Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
Before that, we met at the historic Negev Forum, together with the foreign ministers of the United States, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt. When we thought of creating that meeting, you were the first person I called. I knew that if you came, others would follow. That is exactly what happened, and in my eyes: that is the essence of leadership.
Before that, you welcomed me to Abu Dhabi, when we opened Israel’s Embassy there. There and then you defined our shared goal: to transform the relationship between our countries into a bond between our peoples; to turn the ties between our governments into ties between businesses; to ensure that our peoples benefit from our ties, to allow the instinctive entrepreneurship of our two great nations to drive us forward.
We have made huge strides this past year, but we have not even scratched the surface of the potential for cooperation in all fields— the economy, food security, energy, water, cyber, and of course, security.
Last January, I was appalled, as was every Israeli, and every civilized person, by the criminal drone attack on your beautiful country. Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with you in the face of any terrorist attack. Regrettably, we have experience in this area. We know how it feels.
And we know which country is behind these attacks. We know what needs to be done in response, and we know the right way to do it.
My friend, together, we are changing the face of the Middle East. We are changing it from war to peace, from terrorism to economic cooperation, from a discourse of violence and extremism to a dialogue of tolerance and cultural curiosity.
You may know that the Hebrew word Shalom has two meanings – both hello and peace. So, I greet you with shalom, and I wish us all shalom: A blessing of peace. Welcome to Israel, my dear friend.”
** Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s full speech:
“The signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020 was a very moving occasion. It was moving because of the great potential that we wished to see in the accords, and because of the vision we were praying for, for the State of Israel and for all nations in the region. Witnessing that moment of historic importance, we hoped and prayed that this moment would provide us a path to the future to which we aspire: a future of partnership and prosperity, of renewal and peace.
“Two years later, what began as a wish and as an aspiration uniting us all is now an established fact: ladies and gentlemen, the Abraham Accords transformed, and continue to transform, our region beyond recognition! This is therefore the heart of tonight’s celebrations. Over the past two years, we have seen how much power is latent in an openness to change, in good neighborliness, and in unmediated interactions between people. We have seen how a bold partnership may form the basis for sincere change, even when we do not agree on everything.
“The Abraham Accords heralded the return of hope, of dramatic regional change, of a horizon of cooperation and prosperity, of a future that draws its power from the togetherness created in the present. Following on from the peace accords with our dear longtime partners, first Egypt and then Jordan, who were the first to sign peace agreements with us. The peace agreements with these countries remain trailblazers. Similarly, the Abraham Accords proved above all else how the courage of leaders and nations can open a window to a world that had previously seemed unattainable, and how much space there is for momentum and growth when we choose to change paradigms and learn about each other. On behalf of us all, I hope that we shall see more and more groundbreaking accords, including with our close neighbors, the Palestinians, and that the historic process, gaining unimaginable momentum, of Israel’s integration into this region will continue, layer upon layer.
“Distinguished audience, nearly eight months have passed since my moving and historic visit to the United Arab Emirates as a guest of the President, and then-Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. I recall the warm reception, the playing of the national anthem, Hatikvah, at the palace in Abu Dhabi, which plucked heartstrings; I recall my visit to the stunning Expo in Dubai; and mostly, I recall the true friend I was privileged to meet and draw great inspiration from him: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi.
“We met again four months later, when I arrived to express condolences to the Sheikh on the death of his brother—your brother—the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. Even in his deepest grief, and in every conversation we have, I find a stalwart leader with his sights set forward, for the sake of his nation’s good, for the sake of the future of our region and the whole world. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed’s impressive leadership, and his boldness in looking far ahead—these are shaping history. I would like to convey through you, Your Highness, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Israeli people’s wishes to your dear leader, your beloved brother. and of course, to Your Excellency. And of course, I welcome you, Your Highness, as a central actor in these accords, who actively led the way to them and signed them. You, my friend, are a man of peace.
“Tonight, I wish to note and salute the significant contributions to the Abraham Accords of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former U.S. President Donald Trump. I also want to give a special thanks to special presidential advisor Jared Kushner, and to his team, headed by Avi Berkowitz, who is here with us today, and to everyone who worked on these accords. My sincere appreciation to the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, and to King Mohammed VI of Morocco, who are represented here with pride by their ambassadors. So many partners have contributed their share to the reconnection between the children of Abraham, living in Israel and the United Arab Emirates, in Bahrain and in Morocco.
“Of course, I wish to note my positive conversations this past year with the leaders of the government of Sudan, reflecting, I believe, a mutual desire to continue deepening relations between our countries. All Israeli governments have a commitment to this dramatic transformation and to these accords, and the Israeli people salute our new friends with a joyous and open heart. It is clear that Israel’s integration in the region, the direction in which history is leading, is bringing down barriers, erasing cynicism and doubt, and making room for creativity and life. Look at the broadscale cooperation that you mentioned, our friend, in so many fields. Look at the scope of trade and tourism between our nations, which continue to break records, and which will yet soar further after the free trade agreement between Israel and the UAE enters into effect.
“Look at the exciting leap in cooperative ventures between Israel and Morocco, two states and two nations with a shared history stretching back years. Economic ties between Israel and Bahrain are also expanding in impressive ways. I intend to visit Bahrain in the coming months as the guest of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in order to continue exploring together new ways to enhance our nations’ cooperation, for the sake of the peace, prosperity, and success of our entire region.
“We all have a duty, which is also a great privilege, to continue doing everything to exhaust the fruits of these important accords, out of faith and in the hope of bringing more states and nations to join the blessing of the children of Abraham, and to expand the circle of peace with Israel. Together we offer a prayer, a prayer shared by all children of Abraham, members of all religions and faiths in the Middle East, that the years to come may be marked by tremendous hope: for our empowering common endeavors, for interfaith harmony, and most of all, for the building of new bridges between us.
“We are all destined to be neighbors, to live together in the Middle East side by side, Jews next to Muslims next to Christians next to members of all other faiths. We must insist on choosing our common good, in choosing life, for our sake and for our children’s and descendants’ sake. As we read in the Quran: ‘We have made you into peoples and tribes so that you may get to know one another’ (Sura 49:13), and in the spirit of the call from the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies: ‘Our call is a call for peace, a call for love and fraternity, a call for human dignity, exalting humanity in every place.’ Dear friends, welcome! As we read in Judaism’s ancient texts: ‘Peace unto you and to your household and to all that is yours, peace!’ (1 Samuel 25:6) A sweet and happy new year to all!”
Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO) – Herzog day
Photo: Kobi Gideon (GPO) – reception
Photo: Haim Zach (GPO) – Lapid