Lapid to be first-ever Israeli minister to visit UAE next week

Lapid to be first-ever Israeli minister to visit UAE next week

No Israeli cabinet ministers visited the UAE or Bahrain since the Abraham Accords were announced.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid plans to visit the United Arab Emirates next week, making him the first Israeli minister on an official visit to the country, which made peace with Israel last year.

On his first trip in his new role, he will be the guest of UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi next Tuesday and Wednesday. Lapid will dedicate the Israeli Embassy in the Emirati capital and the Israeli Consulate in Dubai.

“Israel-UAE ties are an important relationship whose fruit is enjoyed not only by the citizens of the two countries, but of the entire Middle East,” Lapid’s spokesman said Monday.

Israel and the UAE announced a peace and normalization agreement last August, facilitated by the US and called the Abraham Accords. Bahrain joined soon after, and then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of the two Gulf states signed the accords at the White House the following month. In the ensuing months, Sudan and Morocco also announced normalization with Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted a message of support after Lapid’s announcement.

“This is an important historic event,” he wrote. “Israeli-Emirates relations are an important part of Israel’s foreign policy and we will work to deepen them.”
“Good luck Yair,” Bennett added, along with emoji of the Israeli and Emirati flags.

No Israeli cabinet ministers have visited the UAE or Bahrain since the Abraham Accords were announced. Netanyahu had to postpone several planned trips due to coronavirus lockdowns and because one was too close to this year’s election, and the UAE did not want the relationship to be politicized.

Netanyahu would not allow other ministers to travel to the Gulf before he did. Former foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi and tourism minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Blue and White), now science and technology minister, had to cancel planned trips.
Ashkenazi met with his Emirati counterpart in Berlin, and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani visited Israel.

National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat visited Abu Dhabi with a large professional delegation two weeks after the Abraham Accords were announced.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid) spoke with his Emirati counterpart, Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi, who is an outspoken supporter of the Abraham Accords.

“Peace between Israel and the UAE is an important strategic asset in promoting stability and peace in the Middle East,” Ben-Barak said, adding that the “conversation between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi is a dream come true for me and adds another level to the cooperation and peace between nations.”

They discussed national and regional security, foreign relations and bilateral relations between the committees, parliaments and countries.

Nuaimi suggested establishing a joint parliamentary delegation, along with members of other legislatures in the Middle East, to travel to the US and other countries to encourage peace and cooperation across the region.

Ben Barak said he supports the idea.