Normalization: The Israeli President confirms his country’s support for the UAE’s...

January 30, 2022Updated 9 hours ago

Israeli President Isaac Herzog shakes hands with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the start of his visit to the UAE.

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog shakes hands with Sheikh Al Nahyan at the start of his visit to the UAE

On his first official visit to the UAE, Israeli President Isaac Herzog stressed that his country supports the security needs of the United Arab Emirates and seeks to establish stronger relations with countries in the region.

His visit to the UAE and his meeting with Emirati officials come at a time of escalating tension in the region – in light of the UAE’s two missile and drone attacks this month by the Houthi rebels in Yemen – and an attempt by international powers to revive the Iranian nuclear agreement.

On January 18, Israel offered to provide support to the UAE in the field of security and intelligence in the face of drone attacks.

Herzog’s visit to the UAE was preceded by a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett last December, in an effort to strengthen relations that were normalized between the two countries in 2020.

In 2020, the UAE and Bahrain signed an agreement to normalize relations with Israel called the “Abraham Agreement”. The two Gulf states share with Israel their concerns about Iran and its allies in the region.

Herzog discussed with the de facto ruler of the Emirates, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, issues of security and bilateral relations between the two countries.

“We fully support your security requirements and condemn in all forms and expressions any attack on your sovereignty by terrorist groups,” Herzog said at the meeting, according to statements published by his office. “We are here together to find ways and means to bring complete security to the people who seek peace in our region.”

For his part, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said that Israel and the UAE have “a common vision on threats to regional stability and peace, especially those threats posed by militias and terrorist forces.”

The Israeli president’s plane had flown over Saudi airspace on its way to the Emirates, where he said it was a “very moving moment.”

Riyadh and Israel do not have diplomatic relations, but Israel has said it would like to establish a relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is home to two of the most sacred sites for Muslims.

Herzog told Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed that “the Abraham agreement must continue and other countries should join us in this endeavour.”

Former US President Donald Trump mediates former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed at the signing of the Abraham Agreement.

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Abraham’s agreement in 2020 opened the way for normalizing relations between Israel and the UAE

The Emirates News Agency said that the Israeli president met the Emirati foreign minister and other officials. He will also meet the Jewish community in the Emirates, which is a commercial and tourism hub in the region.

Herzog tweeted, “Initiating the first visit of an Israeli president to the UAE. We are thrilled and deeply moved by the warm welcome in Abu Dhabi.”

geopolitical interests

The visit of Herzog, the first president to officially visit the UAE, is an outgrowth of the 2020 US-brokered normalization agreement that angered the Palestinians.

This agreement had broken an Arab consensus in the past not to recognize Israel unless it signed a peace agreement with the Palestinians stipulating the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The negotiator in reaching the agreement on the Israeli side was former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said at the time that the agreement would provide Israel with new allies in the region in confronting Iran and enhance its diplomatic efforts to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Iran is an old enemy of Israel, which views efforts by international powers to revive the 2015 agreement that lifted sanctions on Tehran in return for restrictions on its nuclear program.

Meanwhile, relations between the UAE and Iran are tense, as the UAE supports forces allied with the Yemeni government fighting the Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in the civil war in Yemen.

An ADNOC petroleum depot in Abu Dhabi.

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The Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi took place near this ADNOC oil depot and set three fuel tanks on fire.

This conflict has increasingly turned into a regional one, with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi being subjected to missile and drone attacks by the Houthis that claimed the lives of three foreign workers.

Transforming the Middle East

Herzog, who is due to visit the Expo 2020 , pledged earlier this month that the “bold new partnership” between Israel and the UAE “will transform the Middle East.”

About 200,000 Israelis visited the UAE during the first year after the normalization of relations, and more than 40 Israeli companies were established there, according to the Israeli consulate in Dubai.

Since the signing of the normalization agreement, Israel and the UAE have signed a series of agreements on economic and commercial cooperation, ranging from tourism and financial services.

In a statement prior to Herzog’s trip, Emirati Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Al Khaja said that the visit “will enhance bilateral relations… as we seek to sign important economic and trade agreements… in the near future.”

The negotiation of the “Abraham Agreement” took place during the era of former US President Donald and was supported by the administration of current US President Joe Biden.

It is noteworthy that Bahrain and Morocco normalized their relations with Israel under the “Abraham Agreement” as well. Sudan agreed to the same move, but formal diplomatic relations have yet to emerge in light of the escalating instability in Khartoum.

Herzog visits the Jewish community in the UAE

Herzog and his wife meet the Jewish community in the Emirates

picture released, Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO

During the visit, President Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog met, on Sunday evening, with representatives of the Jewish community in the UAE.

Among the representatives was Rabbi Levi Duchman, who has been working in Dubai since 2014 on various aspects of Jewish life, such as providing kosher meat and community education institutions.

The Israeli president said that he wanted to express his appreciation to those who worked on the Abraham agreements. He added, “I would like to express my great gratitude to the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and his government.”

“He’s a daring leader and a wonderful leader with whom I spent a few hours today and was very inspired by him,” Herzog continued.

He also said, “Of course I want to thank Bahrain, the King of Bahrain, former US President Donald Trump and his administration, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government. They all made this peace treaty a reality.”

He noted that he is working with the new Biden administration in the United States, the government of Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and many others “to make this reality sustainable for the future.” He said he hopes to bring “more and more countries to join peace with Israel”.

“I also believe that the dialogue between Judaism and Islam has reached an impressive level. I very much look forward to further dialogue with Muslim countries,” Herzog stressed.

He added, “As you know, we have relations with a good number and there are plans (for relations with) other countries. I hope that this will lead to a new era in relations between Jews and Muslims in our region.”

Herzog ended his speech to the Jewish community in the Emirates by saying that he would like to see the members of this community in Israel. “It is a great honor for me to be here,” he added.

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