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Lapid Lauds ‘Historic Moment’ in UAE Visit
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed meet in Abu Dhabi on June 29, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

Lapid Lauds ‘Historic Moment’ in UAE Visit

Israeli foreign minister opens embassy in Abu Dhabi, urges other Arab countries to join Abraham Accords

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday touched down in the United Arab Emirates, becoming the first government minister from Jerusalem to formally visit the Gulf nation.

“This is an historic moment,” Lapid said upon his arrival in Abu Dhabi. “We are standing here today because we chose. Peace over war. Cooperation over conflict. The good of our children over the bad memories of the past. The right to determine our fate by ourselves.”

Jerusalem’s top diplomat, barely two weeks in office, met with counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed after inaugurating the newly established Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi in a special ceremony.

We are standing here today because we chose. Peace over war. Cooperation over conflict. The good of our children over the bad memories of the past. The right to determine our fate by ourselves

He later proceeded to another ribbon-cutting ceremony, at Israel’s new consulate general in Dubai.

“Israel wants peace with … all its neighbors. The Middle East is our home. … We call on all the countries of the region to recognize that, and to come talk to us,” a foreign ministry spokesperson told The Media Line in a statement, echoing Lapid’s remarks.

In August, former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Emirati ruler Mohammed bin Zayed agreed to normalize relations between the two countries, in a landmark deal brokered by the Trump administration.

That first Abraham Accord was soon followed by three additional normalization pacts, with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

In his address Tuesday, Lapid made sure to credit the former US president as well as his political rival and current opposition chair.

“On behalf of all of us, I thank the previous prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was the architect of the Abraham Accords and the man who worked on them tirelessly. This moment is his no less than it is ours. I want to thank former US President Donald Trump and current US President Joe Biden for their uncompromising support,” he said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Emirati Minister of Culture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi cut the ribbon during an inauguration ceremony of Israel’s embassy in Abu Dhabi on June 29, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

Tuesday’s trip was preceded by a summit on Sunday between Lapid and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani in Rome, immediately after the Israeli minister’s sit-down with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

As the foreign minister – who is slated to assume the prime minister’s office in two years and replace current Prime Minister Naftali Bennet – embarked on his Gulf visit, Israel’s outgoing President Reuven Rivlin was wrapping up his own diplomatic tour.

Rivlin, who will step down next week after completing his seven-year term, concluded a three-day trip to the United States, becoming the first Israeli official to meet with President Joe Biden since his election victory.

During their get-together at the Oval Office in the White House on Monday, Biden assured Rivlin his commitment to the Jewish state is “iron-clad,” adding: “Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch.”

The two discussed Tehran’s nuclear aspirations, as well as its other hostile activities in the region, with the Israeli president conveying Jerusalem’s misgivings over a potential American return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, which has been negotiated in Vienna in recent weeks.

Biden also expressed his desire to meet with Bennett, an event expected to be arranged as soon as next month.

US and Iranian officials will resume indirect talks in the Austrian capital next week, mediated by European diplomats.

The Islamic Republic’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-liner who easily won this month’s elections, has stated he will remain committed to any existing pacts approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Israel can attempt to perhaps sway Washington’s position, but not much more than that,” Alexander Grinberg, an expert on Iran at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told The Media Line.

“Iran is playing this very smart. They’re not irrational or looking for an all-out war with Israel or the US. They see the developments in the Gulf regarding rapprochement with Israel, and they also recognize this new administration wants a deal. So, I believe a [return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] will eventually be agreed on,” he said.

In his message on Tuesday from Abu Dhabi, Lapid urged other Arab states in the region to reconsider their stance on Israel.

“The people of the Middle East are invited to look around them and ask: Whose situation is better? Those who chose the path of peace or those who chose the path of war? Those who chose to invest in their people and their land or those who chose to invest in hatred of the other?”

 

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