President Isaac Herzog travelled to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday on the first such visit, his office said, seeking to strengthen Gulf ties at a time of heightened regional tension as world powers try to revive a nuclear deal with Iran.
Herzog was to meet top officials, including Abu Dhabi's powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the de facto Emirati leader, along with members of the country's small but growing Jewish expat community. He also was expected to visit Expo 2020, the world's fair in Dubai, where Israel has hosted a series of events at its national pavilion.
En route to the UAE President Herzog's plane flew over Saudi Arabia, which he said was "truly a very moving moment". Riyadh and Israel do not have diplomatic ties, but Israel has said it would like to establish a relationship with the kingdom which is home to Islam's two holiest sites.
"I will be meeting the leadership of the United Arab Emirates, at the personal invitation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince," Herzog said shortly before takeoff.
"I wish him well and I am grateful for his courage and bold leadership, carving out a peace agreement with Israel and sending a message to the entire region that peace is the only alternative for the peoples of the region."
The presidency in Israel is a largely ceremonial post. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited the UAE in December.
The UAE, along with Bahrain, signed U.S.-brokered normalization agreements with Israel, dubbed the "Abraham Accords", at the White House in 2020. The two Gulf nations and Israel share common concerns about Iran and its allied forces in the region.
Israel on Jan. 18 offered security and intelligence support to the UAE against further drone attacks after a deadly strike by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group, according to a letter released on Tuesday by Israel's leader.
First published: 09:41, 01.30.22