Netanyahu, UAE leader speak; Israeli delegation headed to Bahrain next week; first cargo ship from Dubai arrives in Haifa.
By LAHAV HARKOV
The cabinet voted unanimously in favor of the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Monday.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed spoke on the phone over the weekend for the first time since the peace treaty signing on the White House’s South Lawn on September 15.Netanyahu called bin Zayed his friend in his opening remarks at the cabinet meeting.“I invited him to visit Israel, and he invited me to visit Abu Dhabi,” he said. “But before that, we will see a delegation from the UAE here and another delegation of ours will go there.”A UAE delegation will pay a reciprocal visit next Tuesday, after a group of high-level Israeli officials led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat flew to Abu Dhabi in August. An Israeli delegation is also expected to fly to Bahrain together with American officials on Sunday, and they will stop in the UAE, as well.Netanyahu promised that the UAE delegation to Israel will be met “with the same warmth and great excitement” as the Israeli delegation was in Abu Dhabi.Peace between Israel and the UAE “expresses the dramatic change in Israel’s standing in the region,” Netanyahu said. “Arab states want to make peace with us, because they see how we turned Israel into a superpower.“They also see how we stand up to Iran, sometimes alone against the whole world. They understand that we can help them in many areas. They see that Israel is not only not a burden and not an enemy, it is a necessary ally,” he added.Netanyahu said he has no doubt that more peace agreements between Israel and Arab and Muslim countries are on the way.The Israeli and Emirati leaders discussed cooperation in investments, tourism, energy, technology and more, as well as a partnership in combating coronavirus. They also expressed their appreciation for US President Donald Trump and the US for supporting their peacemaking efforts.Bin Zayed tweeted that he and Netanyahu “discussed strengthening bilateral ties and examined prospects for peace and the need for stability, cooperation and development in the region.”The Emirati readout of the call did not mention a possible meeting between the leaders.Defense Minister Benny Gantz praised the peace treaty and called for there to be more, while ensuring Israel’s security.“I am working closely with the American defense establishment on doing just that with regard to the agreement with the UAE,” Gantz said, a reference to the UAE’s request to buy F-35 fighter jets from the US.Israel opposes the sale, arguing that it would weaken its military superiority in the Middle East.“We will move the agreement forward, while protecting Israel’s security interests,” Gantz added. “ We must not stop pushing for peace with other regional partners. It is a moral and national imperative.”Monday’s cabinet vote was only on peace with the UAE, because the peace treaty with Bahrain has yet to be written.A vote on the agreement is set to take place in the Knesset on Thursday, and is expected to pass with little opposition.The peace documents between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain are also known as the “Abraham Accords,” and as such, highlight interfaith tolerance.The UAE-Israel treaty states that the signatories are “recognizing that the Arab and Jewish peoples are descendants of a common ancestor, Abraham, and inspired, in that spirit, to foster in the Middle East a reality in which Muslims, Jews, Christians and peoples of all faiths, denominations, beliefs and nationalities live in, and are committed to, a spirit of coexistence, mutual understanding and mutual respect.”On the practical level, the parties agreed to establish peace, diplomatic relations and normalization, to exchange ambassadors and open embassies, and cooperate in finance and investment, civil aviation, consular services, innovation trade and economic relations, as well as healthcare, science, technology and “peaceful uses of outer space,” education and more.The agreement avoids any topics that may be controversial, such as a Palestinian state, the suspension of Israel’s plans to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria or American arms sales to the UAE.The treaty between Israel and the UAE commits its signatories to “working together to realize a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that meets the legitimate needs and aspirations of both peoples, and to advance comprehensive Middle East peace, stability and prosperity.”Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich wrote a letter to Netanyahu pointing out that Israeli, American and Emirati officials said that visits by Muslims to the Temple Mount were part of the agreements. However, that matter is not part of the published text.“In order to stand for the Israeli-Jewish interest at the holiest site in the world for Jews, I ask to receive all of the agreements between the sides, written or oral, connected to the Temple Mount, its diplomatic and property status, its administration and visitation and prayer arrangements for Jews and for those who are not [Jewish],” Smotrich wrote.The MK added that it is “a basic condition in a democratic country for the public and MKs to know what they are being asked to authorize in their vote...in the plenum.”Trump said at the UAE-Israel peace treaty signing ceremony at the White House that “the Abraham Accords also open the door for Muslims around the world to visit the historic sites in Israel and to peacefully pray at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam.”“For generations,” the US president added, “the people of the Middle East have been held back by old conflicts, hostilities, lies, treacheries... Lies that the Jews and Arabs were enemies and that al-Aqsa Mosque was under attack. Constantly, they would say it was under attack. These lies, passed down from generation to generation, fueled a vicious cycle of terror and violence that spread across the region and all over the world.”Currently, Muslims may pray at the mosque, which is administered by the Jordanian Islamic Trust, but Jews may only visit, without praying, and only at limited times. Visitors from much of the Middle East cannot access the site because their countries do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Citizens of Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel, often have difficulty obtaining a visa due to security concerns and wait months to get an answer.The UAE-Israel peace agreement does not include visa-free travel, but there are expected to be fewer security issues in allowing Emiratis into the country, a Foreign Ministry source told The Jerusalem Post.Also Monday, the first ship carrying cargo from the United Arab Emirates to Israel entered the Haifa Port.The ship, called MCS Paris, carried iron, firefighting equipment, cleaning equipment and electronic equipment. It covers a route between India and Israel and other Mediterranean ports, and will bring cargo from the Emirates on a weekly basis.The shipment marks a new trade line between Israel and the UAE. Exports from Israel to the Emirates are also being considered, according to Port2Port.Netanyahu said the ship “made history.”“A new trade route was opened between the UAE and Israel,” the prime minister tweeted. “The peace agreement between us leads to collaborations that will bring billions to the citizens of Israel. This is especially important during the coronavirus period, so we can help everyone and strengthen the economy.”