Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will embark on his first official overseas trip next week, traveling to the United Arab Emirates to meet with counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed in what will be the first ever visit by a top Israeli government official to the Gulf state.
The historic event, set to take place next Tuesday and Wednesday, also will see Lapid inaugurate the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi, as well as Jerusalem’s consulate general in Dubai, the Foreign Ministry told The Media Line.
“Ties between Israel and the UAE are an important relationship, the fruits of which will be enjoyed not only by the citizens of the two countries, but by the entire Middle East,” a ministry spokesperson said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, sworn in just last week, commended his coalition partner, calling the summit “an important, historic occasion.”
“Israeli-Emirati relations are a crucial component of Israel’s foreign policy, and we will work to strengthen them. Good Luck Yair,” Bennett tweeted.
In August, the Jewish state and the Gulf nation signed the first of four normalization agreements reached between Jerusalem and Muslim and Arab countries.
The pacts, known as the Abraham Accords, solidify diplomatic, trade and tourism relations, and were brokered by the administration of former US President Donald Trump.
“[Lapid] says he’s flying to the Emirates to advance the peace agreements we brought,” opposition chair Benjamin Netanyahu, who signed the deals with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco last fall, said Monday in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
“We brought the best diplomatic, economic and most secure decade in our country’s history. They know they’re in over their heads,” Netanyahu said of his rivals in the Bennett-Lapid unity government.
Prior to his loss in the March elections, the former prime minister tried in vain to secure a similar trip to the Gulf, but was thwarted at least four times by coronavirus concerns and regional security issues.
No Cabinet ministers were allowed to travel to the region before Netanyahu did, and though Lapid’s predecessor Gabi Ashkenazi was forced to cancel a planned trip at Netanyahu’s directive, he did meet with bin Zayed in Berlin.
At the end of August, two weeks after the accords were announced, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat became the first Israeli official to visit Abu Dhabi, accompanied by a large professional delegation.
On Monday, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Ram Ben Barak, a member of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, spoke with Emirati counterpart Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi.
Ben Barak told the chairman of UAE’s committee for Defense Affairs, Interior and Foreign Affairs that “peace between Israel and the UAE is a strategic asset for advancing stability and peace in the Middle East,” his office told The Media Line.
The two discussed regional security, cooperation between their committees and parliaments, and foreign affairs. “The conversation between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi is a dream come true, and represents another step toward deepening our ties,” the former senior Mossad official said.
Article written by Uri Cohen, republished with permission from The Media Line.