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Israel: Yair Lapid makes 'historic' UAE visit

2h ago

Israel's foreign minister is the first to visit the Gulf state. He has opened the nation's embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai. He will also sign an economic cooperation pact.

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday for the first official visit by an Israeli foreign minister to the Middle Eastern kingdom. 

Before leaving for Abu Dhabi, Lapid tweeted a picture of himself from inside the plane with the caption: "Taking off for a historic visit to the UAE."

Even though Israeli ministers have previously visited the UAE, Lapid is the first one to travel there on an official mission.

What's on Lapid's agenda?

At the start of his two-day visit to the UAE, Lapid inaugurated Israel's embassy in Abu Dhabi.

"Israel wants peace with its neighbors. With all its neighbors. We aren't going anywhere. The Middle East is our home. We're here to stay. We call on all the countries of the region to recognise that. And to come talk to us," Lapid said during the ceremony.

The foreign minister will also sign an agreement on economic cooperation with the oil-rich Gulf nation.

Lapid will talks with senior UAE officials, including Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and attend a trade expo where Israeli companies are exhibiting technology.


Since the normalization deal, Israel has signed a number of economic deals with the UAE, ranging from tourism to aviation and financial services.

Bilateral trade is already expected to have exceeded $354 million (€297 million), according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

The UAE formally opened its embassy in Tel Aviv, temporarily located in the Tel Aviv stock exchange, to little fanfare earlier this month.


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Date 14.07.2021

UAE opens embassy in Israel to improve trade

With an embassy in Tel Aviv, the UAE has plans to broaden economic ties with Israel after tourism, aviation and financial services deals. Israel's president called diplomatic ties to the UAE a milestone toward peace.

The United Arab Emirates officially opened an embassy in Israel on Wednesday, becoming only the third majority Arab nation to have full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

New Israeli President Isaac Herzog said the Tel Aviv embassy inauguration was "an important milestone in our shared journey toward a future of peace, prosperity and security for the Middle East."

Two weeks earlier, Israel opened its embassy in Abu Dhabi, signaling the potential beginning of a new era of cooperation for the two countries initiated by a US-brokered deal in September 2020.

What are the effects of official diplomatic ties?

After decades of hostility, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed to establish relations last September as part of an agreement called the Abraham Accords.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid then visited the UAE in June, opening the embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai.

The newly opened Tel Aviv embassy is located in the same building as Israelꞌs stock exchange, indicating the Arab country's desire for continuing to improve economic relations. Lapid told Emirati media last month that bilateral trade has reached over $675.22 million (€573 million) since the Abraham Accords were signed.

The location of the embassy in Tel Aviv is aimed to avoid the controversial section of East Jerusalem annexed during the 1967 Six-Day War. Most states maintain embassies in Tel Aviv because of Jerusalem's disputed status, which makes it one of the hardest issues to solve in negotiations over peace in the Middle East and a potential two-state solution that would see the creation of an independent Palestinian state. 



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Israeli PM Bennett makes first official visit to UAE

14h ago

Naftali Bennett has been welcomed in Abu Dhabi in what he called a "historic" visit — the first of its kind after the two countries established diplomatic ties last year.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, marking the first official visit by an Israeli premier, after they established diplomatic ties last year.

Bennett was first received in Abu Dhabi by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The prime minister said he appreciated the "very warm hospitality."

"I'm very excited to be here... as the first official visit of an Israeli leader here. We are looking forward to strengthening the relationship," he said. 

Bennett is expected to meet Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday for talks on strengthening economic and commercial ties.



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The escalation of diplomatic visits continues.


Israel and UAE: How nominal enemies became allies

By Jennifer Holleis, Kersten Knipp | 19h ago

Israel's historic presidential trip to the UAE is highlighting burgeoning relations between the two countries. Their shared arch-enemy Iran and regional climate challenges suggest their ties may strengthen further.

Less than 48 hours after Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his wife arrived at the airport in Abu Dhabi, the historic mission already felt somewhat accomplished.

The symbolic trip marked the first time an Israeli president visited the United Arab Emirates — and images of the Israeli flag being hoisted on Emirati soil signaled warm diplomatic tidings between the two countries. 

In the Middle East, however, the status quo remains when it comes to geopolitical maneuvers in the competition for regional hegemony. Not long after Herzog's arrival, breaking news hit the headlines: The Houthi movement in Yemen had fired a ballistic missile toward the UAE. The Emirati Defense Ministry said it intercepted and destroyed the missile. 

And here's why the failed missile attack is not seen as a coincidence: The Houthis are backed by Iran — the mutual arch-enemy of both the UAE and Israel. In 2015, the UAE joined forces with the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi movement in Yemen — a conflict and humanitarian crisis that still rages today. 

Despite the sudden change in atmosphere on Monday, Isaac Herzog didn't disappoint his host. "We are here together to find ways and means to bring full security to people who seek peace in our region," the Israeli president assured Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, according to the Israeli government press office.

The two countries, once nominal enemies, turned official allies some 16 months ago, when the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain, as well as Israel's then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, signed a peace agreement that normalized diplomatic ties between their countries. The Abraham Accords, as the statement became known, was a landmark achievement under then-US President Donald Trump.

But while diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE have significantly increased, other allied countries like Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan are moving at a much slower pace.

Increase in trade and travel

The main driver for the fast track in their ties is that the UAE and Israel are similar in terms of economic size and development.

"They both have a gross domestic product (GDP) of around $400 billion (€356 billion) and their relatively small populations enjoy a high living standard measured in per capita income," said Atradius, a trade credit insurance company.


A special case

Of all countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is probably the most sought-after ally for Israel — yet at the same time, it is also the most controversial.

"Saudi Arabia would be the big prize for Israel," Yoel Guzansky, a senior research fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), told DW in a phone interview. 

For many years, the Saudis have been maintaining relations with Israel, albeit not official ones.

"Israelis would love to have the 'kosher stamp' of Saudi Arabia as the leader of Sunni Islam and custodian of the Holy Places," Guzansky said.

However, there are still many sensitivities, such as differing opinions on Palestine and a two-state solution.

At the same time, Guzansky also sees many parallels, such as similar challenges including their conflict with Yemen and staunch dislike for Iran. "It would be smart to offer them help now, as they will remember this. They need someone in the region, and this someone could be Israel," he told DW. 



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A 'NATO' for the Middle East?

By Cathrin Schaer, Emad Hassan, Kersten Knipp | 31m ago

Rumors of a new Middle Eastern military alliance are flying. They're significant because an "Arab NATO" may include Israel, signaling next steps in better ties between Israel and Arab neighbors. But are the rumors real?

Late last week, the king of Jordan made headlines when he told journalists that he would support a military alliance in the Middle East that was similar to NATO.

"I would be one of the first people that would endorse a Middle East NATO," King Abdullah II told US media outlet CNBC . "All of us are coming together and saying, 'How can we help each other?' … which is, I think, very unusual for the region."

Similar rumors about the creation of an "Arab NATO" also came from other quarters.

Earlier last week, Israel's defense minister, Benny Gantz, said Israel had joined a new US-led network that he called the Middle East Air Defense Alliance, or MEAD. Gantz did not specify which Arab nations might also be involved. International media outlets, including Reuters and The Associated Press, were unable to fully verify the Israeli announcement or the title.

Then at the start of this week, The Wall Street Journal reported on secret meetings held in Egypt that saw military officials from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain come together to discuss cooperating on defense.

Alliance for peace?

There are some good reasons for the creation of an "Arab NATO."

The US, a primary guarantor of security in the Middle East, has been slowly withdrawing from the region for several years now, Ahmed el-Sayed Ahmed, an expert at the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, told DW.

"Arabs are increasingly aware that their past bets on Western powers, especially the US, may not have been successful," he said. "Now there's a different approach to dealing with regional problems in order to achieve stability and improve the economy, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic and in light of [instability caused by] the Ukraine war. This attitude may best be described as the desire to have no problems in the region." 

The fact that Israel is involved is also noteworthy. Arab nations who fear aerial attack from Iran or Iranian proxies would like to share in Israel's sophisticated air defense capabilities.

And, Ahmed suggested, "the goal may also be to integrate Israel into a military alliance in the Middle East." This would be a continuation of the improved contacts between Israel and its Arab neighbors that began with the so-called Abraham Accords in 2020, he said. The latter have led to a "normalization" of relations between Israel and some Arab nations.

What would an 'Arab NATO' look like?

Experts say any such defensive alliance is most likely to include the states that already have a relationship of some sort with Israel. That includes the signatories to the Abraham Accords — the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — as well as Jordan and Egypt, countries that already have existing diplomatic ties with Israel.

Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait could also play a role in the alliance, and the US, widely seen as brokering such a deal, would certainly also be involved. 

Despite all of the conjecture, though, observers advised caution, telling DW that it was unlikely that the Middle East would see the emergence of a genuine NATO-style alliance anytime soon.

"There is a greater push towards broader regional cooperation at the moment," agreed Becca Wasser, a fellow for the defense program at CNAS, the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank. "But I still think that this idea of an 'Arab NATO' is a bridge too far."

"The idea of an 'Arab NATO' has been put forward many times," the Al-Ahram Centre's Ahmed noted. "But to this day, it has never crystallized, and I think that, at least in the short term, it will not."



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UAE may include Holocaust in school curricula

Kersten Knipp

4 hours ago

The United Arab Emirates has announced plans to officially introduce the Holocaust as a subject in classrooms — a rare decision in the Middle East. However, details about what will be taught and when remain unclear.

The news made quite a splash. In early January, the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington announced on social media that the Arab country would include the Holocaust in its educational curriculum for primary and secondary schools.

According to the statement on Twitter, the plan comes in the wake of the Abraham Accords — the normalization agreement with Israel — signed some two years ago by the UAE and also by Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

Earlier peace treaties were signed by Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. However, many other Arab countries reject any official contact with Israel to this day.

Now, the UAE is apparently taking a leading role in dealing with the Holocaust. The Holocaust as a regular school subject is rare in the Arab world.


Further details still unknown

So far little is known about the content that might go into the school lessons.

According to a report in the UAE-based newspaper The National, the concept is being developed in cooperation with Jerusalem's Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center and the Israeli-British Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, or IMPACT-SE.

But not many details have been made public. In an interview with DW, Marcus Sheff, head of IMPACT-SE, said they were happy to provide advice and information that they hoped would be useful in teaching about the Holocaust. And, he added, a review of the teaching materials on the Holocaust that have been made available to them so far has shown that they meet the standards for peace and tolerance defined by UNESCO.

The institute has not yet seen the final draft of the teaching materials.The final draft is not yet available to Yad Vashem either.

UAE newspaper The National stated that a final version of the curriculum is in the process of being drafted, but a publication date is yet to be announced.

Nobody knows when any school lessons with Holocaust learning materials might begin, either. A proposed interview with the UAE's embassy in Berlin on this issue did not take place, and it was not possible to obtain information from other sources at the time of publication.



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On 3/2/2021 at 9:12 AM, BansheeOne said:

Major fallout:


Israel acknowledges Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara

8 hours ago

The disputed region is also claimed by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front. Morocco established diplomatic ties with Israel in late 2020, with a string of other Arab countries.

Israel has recognized Rabat's sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region, which the separatist movement Polisario Front claims as its territory, both Israel and Morocco announced on Monday.

A statement from the Israeli prime minister's office said the country was considering opening a consulate in Western Sahara's Dakhla.

Morocco's royal palace had earlier announced the decision, saying it was expressed in a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moroccan King Mohammed VI.

The Israeli position "will be sent to the United Nations, regional and international organizations," the statement quoted the letter as saying.


Israeli-Moroccan ties

Diplomatic ties between Israel and Morocco were only established in 2020, as other Arab countries changed their decades-long stance on Israel and established relations with it.

Then US President Donald Trump announced the Washington's recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara as a result.

Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen said recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the region would "strengthen the relations between the countries and between the peoples and the continuation of cooperation to deepen regional peace and stability."


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Ah, the toils of the plains, as Berthold Brecht would say.


Biden says Israel-Saudi normalization ‘maybe under way’

Biden's remarks came as the U.S, national security advisor was in Jeddah pressing for Saudi Arabia to join the Abraham Accords.

(July 30, 2023 / JNS) U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday that a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia could be coming, according to Reuters.

“There’s a rapprochement maybe under way,” Biden told 2024 reelection campaign contributors at an event in Freeport, Maine.

He did not provide any details, but the comments came as Biden dispatched U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to discuss the possibility of the kingdom joining the Abraham Accords.

Middle East envoy Brett McGurk and Amos Hochstein, special presidential coordinator for global infrastructure and energy security, also joined Sullivan on the trip, according to Axios.

In a readout of the July 27 visit, the White House said that Sullivan met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and senior Saudi officials “to discuss bilateral and regional matters, including initiatives to advance a common vision for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous, and stable Middle East region interconnected with the world.”

Sullivan last visited Saudi Arabia on May 7, together with McGurk and Hochstein. Sullivan told MBS during that visit that the United States sees an opportunity for an Israel-Saudi deal by the end of the year, according to Axios, citing two U.S. officials who said that the White House wants a deal before Biden goes into full campaign mode.

The prince reportedly said he wants to shift from incremental steps to one big package that would include stronger U.S. military cooperation.

The U.S. officials argued that it is in Saudi Arabia’s interest to forge an agreement while Biden is in office as it would receive bipartisan support. While Republicans support a Saudi deal, many Democrats would only do so if an agreement is made under their party’s president, the American officials claimed.





Arab states sour on Israel in blow to US aim of Saudi peace pact

- Abraham Accord states are frustrated about Israel’s West Bank policies

- The United States has ambition to bring Israel and Saudi Arabia together


Published: 11:09am, 31 Jul, 2023

Tensions between Gulf states and Israel are rising three years after historic peace deals, slowing down hoped-for investments and setting back US efforts to further integrate the region by including main power Saudi Arabia.

The United Arab Emirates has expressed frustration in high-level contacts with Israel about the outcome of the 2020 Abraham Accords negotiated under the US presidency of Donald Trump, while Bahrain has outlined its disappointment, according to people familiar with the matter.

That’s largely due to concerns over Israel’s deteriorating relations with the Palestinians – typified by the recent deadly raid on a refugee camp in the city of Jenin and incendiary comments by some far-right Israeli cabinet members.

The strains are likely to complicate the US’s already challenging goal of deepening relations between Israel and Middle Eastern nations, particularly Saudi Arabia.

The White House has been encouraging Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to approach Israel about a deal. The de facto ruler has so far held off and in March restored diplomatic ties with Israel’s arch-enemy Iran through a China-brokered arrangement.

“This is not part of the vision some in the Abraham Accords had – Israel wanted it as an anti-Iranian axis,” said Aziz Alghashian, a Riyadh-based analyst who studies Saudi policy toward Israel. “The region is moving in a different direction now.”

Publicly, Saudi Arabia has said an independent Palestinian state is a precondition to recognising Israel as an ally. Privately, it has asked for firm defence guarantees from the US, access to top-notch US weaponry and a green light for its nuclear programme including domestic uranium enrichment.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has triggered mass protests and unnerved investors with a judicial-overhaul plan, is presiding over his country’s most religious coalition. It backs more Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and includes figures such as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who in March said there is “no such thing as a Palestinian people”.

This has exposed the UAE and Bahrain to a backlash in Arab public opinion that’s been exacerbated by the recent offensive in the West Bank, which Israel said was aimed against militants and meant to destroy their weapons. The UAE condemned the operation, in which 12 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier died, and Smotrich’s comments. The Bahrain government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Morocco, another country that established ties with Israel around the same time as the UAE and Bahrain, last month postponed an Arab-Israeli meeting to protest against Israel’s plans to expand settlements. The North African kingdom later said Israel now backs its desire to control Western Sahara, a disputed territory, which may improve matters. Following this, Netanyahu’s office said he’s been invited to Morocco.

After months of dragging its feet on a bilateral visit by Netanyahu, the UAE invited the Israeli leader only for an international event – the COP28 climate conference later this year in Dubai. Netanyahu’s moves are also frustrating the US and he has struggled to get an invitation to Washington since he retook power late last year, though President Joe Biden has indicated it will happen at some stage.





Sovereignty may be the price for normalization with Riyadh

Amid reports on Saudi demands that Israel make "significant concessions" to the Palestinians before official ties are announced, Israel is signaling that the formula that worked for the Abraham Accords could work now too.

Ariel Kahana

Ariel Kahana is a diplomatic correspondent for Israel Hayom.

(July 31, 2023 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that “we will one day be able to have railways connect Saudi Arabia and Israel,” just hours after a New York Times piece suggested that the kingdom was expecting the Jewish state to make significant concessions to the Palestinians as a precondition for normalization. 

While the train to normalization has long since left the station, the tracks pass through Washington. The Biden administration has been trying for months to have normalization linked to a breakthrough with the Palestinians, and that explains why the New York Times—the preferred outlet for the president—ran that piece. Essentially, in order to get Riyadh, Netanyahu will have to please Ramallah, the article said. But Jerusalem officials have been rejecting this idea, and the conventional wisdom is that the royal palace in Saudi Arabia has also rejected it. 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who has unchallenged power in the kingdom, has on more than one occasion lashed out at the Palestinians. In fact, speaking of trains, he once told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that the “normalization train has left the station; it’s up to you if you want to get on board.” In other words, Riyadh is no longer willing to give Ramallah a veto on the thawing of relations with Israel—for itself or for the Gulf in particular. That is why Bin Salman agreed to have the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain sign the Abraham Accords with Israel, and has himself promoted ties with Israel unofficially. 

In fact, according to one senior Israeli official, the current relationship with Riyadh amounts to “semi-normalization.” For Israel, it would not be worth it to pay in Palestinian currency just so they could be completed and become public, as this would be a dangerous transaction. This has been Netanyahu’s long-held view, and it is not going to change. Selling the farm in exchange for worthless documents signed with the Palestinians is something that he could have done long ago.

In other words, as far as Israel is concerned, peace with Saudi Arabia should be the culmination of a much different form of negotiations. The Saudis have recently presented their demands for bolstering ties with the United States, and they include far-reaching demands on economic, scientific and security matters. The Americans have a vested interest in such a deal to check the Chinese inroads in the region, and of course to ensure that they don’t lose a critical ally like Saudi Arabia. Normalization with Israel, they believe, will be a byproduct of such a large deal between Washington and Riyadh.



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Israel opens new embassy in Bahrain, agrees to boost trade relations

Israel and Bahrain continue to strengthen ties, after they were established in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords.

4 Sep 2023

Israel’s foreign minister has agreed with his Bahraini counterpart to boost trade relations, during his first visit to one of the two Gulf Arab states to establish ties with Israel.

“The foreign minister and I agreed that we should work together to increase the number of direct flights, the tourism, the trade volume, the investment,” Eli Cohen said during a ceremony to inaugurate Israel’s new embassy in Bahrain on Monday.

The embassy in the capital Manama will replace the first embassy Israel opened in 2021, a year after it established diplomatic relations with Bahrain as part of the United States-brokered Abraham Accords.

Under the accords, Israel also established ties with the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.

Monday’s ceremony was attended by Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, who said the “new embassy assumes a pivotal role” in growing collaboration between the two countries.



Edited by BansheeOne
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Israel PM optimistic about historic pact with Saudi Arabia

2 hours ago

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was optimistic about the prospect of reaching an agreement with Saudi Arabia, even as the peace pact still faces major hurdles.

Israel is "at the cusp" of establishing formal diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia by finalizing a US-brokered breakthrough peace agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Friday.

"Peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia will truly create a new Middle East," he said.

Currently, the two countries have no official bilateral relations, but the two countries have been working together covertly on security issues for some time.

On Wednesday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had also confirmed the efforts of normalizing their relations. However, he added that the progress of the agreement would depend on how Israel would deal with Palestinians.

Israel's confidence in reaching a peace accord with Saudi Arabia is notable considering Riyadh and Washington have stressed over inclusion of Palestinians in the diplomatic process.

Netanyahu objected to the push for Palestinian inclusion and said, "They [Palestine] should be part of that process, but they should not have a veto over the process."

Hurdles facing the peace accord

While Israel has maintained optimism towards the deal, there are obstacles to achieving a successful final agreement.

Saudi Arabia has demanded the creation of a Palestinian state which would contradict Netanyahu's government's current stance on the matter.

Saudis are also negotiating a defense deal with the US and are seeking development of their own nuclear program, stoking fears of an arms race with Iran.

Israel's diplomatic ties with the Arab world

But Netanyahu was optmistic, even saying the deal could happen soon. "We probably will in the end achieve it, because it makes sense, but I think that if we want to seize this opportunity, we have to do it in the next months," Netanyahu told US broadcaster Fox News.



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