Emirati officials pay first Israel visit after forging ties

Ilan Ben Zion
Associated Press

Jerusalem – A delegation of senior Emirati officials visited Israel on Tuesday for the first time since the two countries agreed to normalize relations, where they signed a slew of bilateral agreements meant to solidify their new ties.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin accompanied Emirati Finance Minister Obaid Humaid al-Tayer and other senior officials from the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. on the Etihad Airways flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted al-Tayer and Mnuchin at Israel’s Ben-Gurion international airport before signing of a series of bilateral agreements between Israel and the UAE, including civil aviation, visa exemption and science and innovation deals.

In this Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, file photo, an official stands at the door of an Israeli El Al airliner after it landed in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

“Today we are making history. We are making history in a way that will stand for generations,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony stage in a tent on the tarmac. “We will remember this day, a glorious day of peace.”

The ceremony was closed to the media, and the Emirati delegation was to hold all meetings at the airport, apparently over coronavirus concerns.

Al-Tayer said that the Emirates sought to establish legal frameworks with Israel “to achieve prosperity for both our economies and our people.”

Israel and the UAE announced in August they had agreed to normalize ties under a U.S.-brokered deal, and signed accords on the White House lawn in September. In the weeks since, the two countries have signed a raft of business, banking and intergovernmental agreements, along with an end to a longstanding boycott by the UAE against Israel.

“The Abraham Accords establish direct economic ties between two of the Middle East’s most thriving and advanced economies,” Mnuchin said at the ceremony. “These ties create a tremendous foundation for economic growth, opportunity, innovation and prosperity. With greater economic prosperity comes stronger security.”

At the ceremony, the U.S., UAE and Israel announced the establishment of the Abraham Fund, which aims to raise $3 billion in private funding for “development initiatives to promote regional economic cooperation and prosperity in the Middle East and beyond.”

Neighboring Gulf monarchy Bahrain also recently signed an agreement to normalize relations with Israel. The UAE and Bahrain are the third and fourth Arab states to establish ties with Israel. Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively.

Mnuchin flew with Israeli officials to Bahrain earlier this week for the signing of bilateral agreements between Israel and the Gulf monarchy.