(Abu Dhabi) The head of Israeli diplomacy, Yaïr Lapid, inaugurated the first Israeli embassy in the Gulf in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, during an unprecedented official visit by a minister of the Hebrew state since relations normalized l year.
Posted on June 29, 2021
“Ribbon cutting at the inauguration of the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi with Emirati Minister of Culture Noura al-Kaabi,” Lapid tweeted along with a photo of himself and the Emirati official.
“Israel wants peace with […] all his neighbors […] We are at home in the Middle East. We are here to stay. We call on all countries in the region to recognize this. And to speak to us,” he said at the ceremony.
Arriving in the capital Abu Dhabi in the morning, Mr Lapid met his counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and tweeted a photo of the two officials shaking hands after the ceremony.
Later, the Israeli Foreign Ministry reported that the two officials had signed an agreement on economic and trade cooperation. This agreement provides for “free trade in goods and services”. Governments still have to approve it before it goes into effect.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whose country is a great ally of Israel, hailed a “historic” inauguration.
“Look at the blue and white here at Abu Dhabi Airport […] it’s intoxicating! ‘ the Israeli ambassador to the Emirates, Eitan Na’eh, tweeted this morning.
Hamas, the ruling Palestinian Islamist movement in Gaza, condemned the opening of the embassy after accusing the Emirates of having committed a “sin” in signing the normalization agreements.
Mr. Lapid was also due to attend the official opening of the Israeli consulate as well as his country’s pavilion at the World’s Fair (January 1-18).ah October 2021 to March 31, 2022).
The minister was not greeted by a senior official on the tarmac and his visit drew very little media coverage on the Emirati side, a discretion that contrasts with the big announcements and enthusiastic slogans in the early months of normalization between the two countries .
His visit comes amid rising tensions in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
Arab countries, including the Emirates and Bahrain, had criticized Israeli forces’ crackdown on Palestinian demonstrations in May in East Jerusalem, which was occupied by the Jewish state.
And subsequent Israeli attacks on Gaza in response to Israel’s rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave embarrassed the Jewish state’s new Arab trading partners against a highly critical Arab population on the streets and on social media.
” Treason ”
Bahrain, another Gulf monarchy, as well as Morocco and Sudan have also signed normalization agreements with Israel in recent months at the instigation of Donald Trump’s former US administration.
On Tuesday, Manama appointed an ambassador to represent his country in Israel.
The Palestinians have denounced these agreements, calling them “treason.” Until then, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been considered an indispensable prerequisite for normalization.
In recent months, the Emirates and Israel have multiplied cooperation agreements in various areas, especially in the commercial sphere. In March, the Emirates announced the creation of a $10 billion investment fund targeting strategic sectors in Israel.
At the end of August, the plane that operated the first direct commercial flight between the Emirates and Israel landed in Abu Dhabi with an official US-Israeli delegation on board from David Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.
In March, then-Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s first official visit to the Emirates was canceled due to a “dispute” with Jordan over overflying its airspace, according to the Jewish state.
Mr. Lapid is the architect of the coalition that ended Benyamin Netanyahu’s rule and would later become prime minister, alternating with new prime minister Naftali Bennett.