A delegation from the United Arab Emirates arrived in Israel today, marking an historic first visit by a Gulf Arab nation to the Jewish State.
“We are making history in a way that will stand for generations,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said upon greeting Emirati Economy Minister Abdullah bin Touq al-Mari and Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid al-Tayer.
“This is the first ever official visit from the United Arab Emirates to Israel, this is the first time since the signing of the historic agreement in the White House that the governments of Israel and the UAE will be signing concrete practical agreements of cooperation,” Netanyahu revealed, adding, “I think that the visit of such a high level delegation from the UAE and the agreements that we are about to sign will show our peoples, the region and the entire world the benefit of having friendly, peaceful and normal exchanges.”
The UAE Ministers were accompanied by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other American officials on the flight from Abu Dhabi to the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv. The highly-symbolic visit was conducted entirely at the airport due to coronavirus concerns.
“What a historic occasion, the Abraham Accords establish direct economic ties between two of the Middle East most thriving and advanced economies. These ties create a tremendous foundation for economic growth, opportunity, innovation and prosperity,” said Mnuchin said during the ceremony. “With greater economic prosperity comes stronger security, along with the United States, Israel and the UAE share a similar outlook regarding threats and opportunities in the region,” he asserted.
The UAE and Gulf neighbor Bahrain became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to sign U.S.-mediated deals to establish formal ties with Israel, largely over shared fears of Iran despite ongoing differences over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UAE cabinet formally ratified the agreement to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel yesterday.
The “concrete practical agreements” signed by the two countries today to which Netanyahu referred relate to the investment, scientific cooperation and civil aviation sectors, as well as the exemption of travel visas. According to the Israeli Ministry of Transportation, there will be 28 weekly commercial flights between the Ben Gurion airport, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The UAE’s Finance Minister said, “It is my sincere honor to stand before you today to lead the United Arab Emirates first official delegation to the State of Israel, for what I know will be an informative and productive visit to deepen the bilateral understanding and capitalizing on both countries leadership and great opportunities ahead of us.”
Citing discussions on taxation and financial relations, he said there had already been significant progress between the two governments.
“We are committed to support legal framework for the movement of the people and goods and fostering a continuous business-friendly environment between the UAE and the State of Israel to achieve prosperity for both our economies, and our people,” said Minister Tayer, before adding that “We look forward to welcoming you to the UAE in the near future.”
Israel and the UAE have already signed several commercial deals since mid-August, when they first announced they would normalize ties.
Israeli tourism, travel and media representatives are slated to visit the UAE later this week at the invitation of state carrier Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry. While Etihad previously operated cargo flights to Israel carrying aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, it became the first member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) to operate a commercial passenger flight to and from Israel yesterday.
The GCC is a regional alliance between all Arab states of the Persian Gulf except Iraq, namely the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Etihad is also the first non-Israeli airline in the Middle East to launch a dedicated website for the Israeli market in Hebrew.
Yesterday the Emerati airline tweeted: “Today, we make history… and this is only the beginning… Salam and Shalom!