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UAE Delegation Pays Historic First Visit to Israel
An Etihad Airways plane carrying a delegation from the United Arab Emirates on a first official visit, lands at at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on October 20, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

UAE Delegation Pays Historic First Visit to Israel

Abraham Accord parties cement peace with trade, travel treaties

Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday advanced another step in their historic journey toward peace, as UAE government officials arrived to meet with their Israeli counterparts and sign cooperation agreements.

The unprecedented summit, while lasting only five hours, marked the first official diplomatic visit by an Emirati delegation to the Jewish state.

Today we are making history in a way that will stand for generations

“Today we are making history in a way that will stand for generations,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during the reception ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Netanyahu promised the countries would sign “concrete, practical agreements for cooperation,” citing investment protection contracts, joint science and technology ventures and civil aviation pacts including direct flights and a visa exemption treaty.

The UAE is the first Arab nation to sign a reciprocal visa-free travel agreement with Israel.

Flanking Netanyahu was Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, as the two men welcomed the Gulf envoys headed by Economy Minister Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri and Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer.

“The UAE will continue to be a regional leader in terms of economic reform, political stability and peacemaking,” Al Tayer promised in his remarks. He expressed his country’s hopes of achieving “prosperity for both [the UAE’s and Israel’s] economies and peoples.”

Along with the US, Israel and the UAE share a similar outlook regarding threats and opportunities in the region

The Emirati delegation was accompanied by an American one, led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz.

Mnuchin called the one-day summit a “momentous occasion,” noting the positive economic potential of an Israeli-Emirati alliance while also stressing the issue of security. “Along with the US, Israel and the UAE share a similar outlook regarding threats and opportunities in the region,” he said, hinting at Israel and the Gulf nation’s shared apprehension concerning Iran’s aggressive moves.

Conspicuously absent from the festivities were Palestinian representatives, who have remained adamant in their refusal to engage the Trump Administration.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, expressed frustration with Tuesday’s events, saying it was “regrettable that our brothers are no longer a help to us against the occupation that affects our people, our land and our religion.”

One of the most substantial announcements made during the discussions concerned the establishment of a $3 billion investment fund by the three signatories. The Abraham Fund, named after the normalization accords, will funnel investment to projects that “promote regional economic cooperation and prosperity in the Middle East and beyond,” a joint statement read.

The ambitious project will entail the opening of a development office in Israel.

“The Abraham Fund will tackle challenges facing the region and increase economic opportunity for everyone,” Adam Boehler, CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation, promised in his reception ceremony speech.

One of the agreements signed Tuesday concerned a weekly schedule of 28 direct flights between Israel, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Israeli Transportation Ministry Foreign Press spokesperson Sharon David told The Media Line that air travel is slated to begin “in just a few short weeks.”

Tuesday’s ceremony was the culmination of a three-day Gulf tour conducted by Israeli and US diplomats.

On Sunday, Mnuchin and Berkowitz, alongside a delegation of government officials, departed Israel for Manama, where a joint communiqué was signed between Bahrain and Israel. The kingdom was the second Gulf country to agree to normalize relations with Israel, in early September, barely a month after the UAE.

The American team then traveled to Abu Dhabi for the second leg of the tour, and after spending Monday in meetings with Emirati officials, departed for Israel on Tuesday morning.

Both the Bahraini and UAE governments this week ratified the agreements to normalize relations with Israel, paving the way for the Abraham Accords to take effect.

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