Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the first-ever official United Arab Emirates delegation to Israel on Tuesday, hailing a "glorious day of peace."
Accompanied by Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Finance Minister Israel Katz, the prime minister hosted the Emirati delegation - including the UAE's Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer and Economy Minister Abdullah bin Touq al-Mari - at a special five-hour ceremony confined to Ben-Gurion Airport due to coronavirus measures.
The two countries are broadening their cooperation after normalizing ties last month under a U.S.-brokered accord, forged largely over shared fears of Iran.
The prime minister praised the newly inked diplomatic agreement between the two countries as the start of a mutually beneficial relationship.
"Jews and Arabs are descendants of one common ancestor - Avraham, Abraham," Netanyahu said, referring to the name of the accords Israel has recently signed with both the UAE and Bahrain.
"We are making history in a way that will stand for generations," he said.
"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."
Speaking after the prime minister, the CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Adam Boehler, announced a new trilateral project called the Abraham Fund, a $3 billion foundation that will be based in Jerusalem and "strengthen economic resiliency" across the Middle East and North Africa.
Israel and the UAE also signed four cooperation agreements on aviation, visa exemptions, protection of investments and science and technology. All four agreements will be approved in a Knesset vote at a later date.
The visa exemptions agreement means that citizens of both countries can visit the other without undergoing a visa application process and is the first such treaty between Israel and and Arab state.
Israel and the UAE have already signed several commercial deals since mid-August, when they first announced they would establish full relations.
The UAE and fellow Gulf state Bahrain in September became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to sign deals to establish formal ties with Israel, a move that Washington and its allies have said would foster regional peace and stability but which has been rejected by the Palestinians.
Etihad Airways Flight EY8014 carrying Emirati government officials and U.S. dignitaries left the UAE capital Abu Dhab for Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning.
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, on Tuesday called the UAE visit "shameful."
Speaking in Ramallah, he said the visit came amid Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.
"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 Gaza, Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for the Hamas terror that rules the coastal enclave, said: "Such a visit will only encourage the occupation to pursue the gradual annexation of West Bank lands."
The UAE, however, has been celebrating the new relationship as a victory for regional peace.
"This is a historical moment for the UAE country and Israel and we are looking forward to salaam [peace]... in the region," one of the Emirati pilots can be heard saying in a video posted on Twitter by U.S. Middle East envoy Ari Berkowitz.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Berkowitz were also at the ceremony, having arrived in Israel on the UAE flight, after accompanying an Israeli delegation to Bahrain on Sunday for a signing ceremony to formalize ties.
First published: 10:06 , 10.20.20