In a historic first visit by a Gulf Arab nation, a United Arab Emirates delegation arrived in Israel on Tuesday, accompanied by top U.S. officials, to cement a normalisation deal signed last month.
The UAE and Gulf neighbour Bahrain became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to sign deals to establish formal ties with Israel despite ongoing differences over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The deals, forged largely over shared fears of Iran, were brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of next month’s U.S. presidential election.
“We are making history in a way that will stand for generations,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in welcoming Emirati Economy Minister Abdullah bin Touq al-Mari and Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid al-Tayer.
They were accompanied by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other American officials on the flight from Abu Dhabi to the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
“I think that the visit of such a high level delegation from the UAE… will show our peoples, the region and the entire world the benefit of having friendly, peaceful and normal exchanges,” Netanyahu said.
Four agreements were signed – relating to investment, scientific cooperation, civil aviation and visa exemptions during the visit, which was restricted to the airport due to coronavirus concerns.
Tayer said the deals offered “great opportunities” to “achieve prosperity for both our economies, and our people”.
Citing discussions on taxation and financial relations, he said there had already been significant progress between the two governments and added: “We look forward to welcoming you to the UAE in the near future.”
Washington and its allies have said the deals would foster regional peace and stability. But they have prompted anger from the Palestinians.
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization said Tuesday’s UAE visit came amid Israeli settlement expansion and was “shameful”.
“The bilateral agreements that were announced today and the delegations that come and go, all of that offers the occupation a strength to escalate its aggression and its crimes against the Palestinian people and increases its intransigence and arrogance,” he said in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.