UAE opens Israel embassy after normalisation deal

By: AFP      Published: 07:34 PM, 14 Jul, 2021
UAE opens Israel embassy after normalisation deal

The United Arab Emirates opened an embassy in Israel Wednesday, housed in Tel Aviv's new stock exchange building, in the latest normalisation move under a deal brokered by Washington last year. 

The venue in the heart of Israel's financial district highlighted the central role of economic cooperation in their ties since the UAE became only the third Arab country to recognise the Jewish state. 

At the ceremony, attended by new Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Emirati ambassador Mohamed al-Khaja called the embassy opening "an important milestone in the growing relationship between our two countries".

"The UAE and Israel are both innovative nations, we can harness this creativity to work towards a more prosperous and sustainable future for our countries and our region," he said.  

Herzog called for the "historic agreement" with the UAE to be "extended to other nations seeking peace with Israel."

Israel and the UAE have signed a raft of deals ranging from tourism to aviation to financial services since normalising ties in a deal brokered by former US president Donald Trump's administration and announced last August. 

Wednesday's ceremony, held in the lobby of the stock exchange building two floors below the embassy, came after Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made a landmark visit to the UAE last month, opening an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai. 

The Palestinians were outraged by the UAE's decision to establish ties with Israel, which broke with decades of Arab consensus that there should be no such normalisation without a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Following the UAE deal, Israel led by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu normalised relations with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, in a string deals known as the Abraham Accords.

Israel and UAE have sought to capitalise on their new ties with a string of economic agreements.

Lapid was an architect of the coalition that ousted Netanyahu last month, but has, along with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, vowed to keep up Netanyahu's policy of pursuing deeper ties in the Arab world. 

While less than a year old, the new agreements with the UAE and other Arab states have already had the opportunity to prove their resilience, according to Yoel Guzansky, a researcher at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies think-tank.  

"We have passed a major conflict in Gaza, the relations have passed a major test," said Guzansky.  

Police confrontations with Muslim worshippers in Jerusalem in early May escalated into the bloodiest fighting in years, with conflict erupting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

A fragile ceasefire between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers came into place on May 21, ending 11 days of deadly fighting.

"This is a success, no one cancelled an agreement, not even Sudan and Morocco," Guzansky noted in an online briefing.

Lapid told Emirati media last month that bilateral trade has reached over $675.22 million since the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020.

The financial benefits of the agreements could also extend to impoverished Gaza, still reeling from the latest round of violence.

"Once we have a secure political stability (in Gaza) then of course the investment will come," said Abdullah Baqer, President of the Israel-UAE Business Council, in the briefing shared with Guzansky.  

"We will raise funds, we will build schools, we will do charity works to raise the standards of living over there."