First-ever UAE ambassador to Israel presents credentials

Ashkenazi: We have a historic opportunity to present a model of warm, comprehensive peace.

UAE Ambassador to Israel Muhammad Mahmoud Al Khaja with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)
UAE Ambassador to Israel Muhammad Mahmoud Al Khaja with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi
(photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)
The United Arab Emirates’ first ambassador to Israel, Muhammad Mahmoud Al Khaja, arrived in Jerusalem on Monday and presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin.

Rivlin told Khaja the whole nation was excited to welcome him.
“We waited patiently for relations to grow step by step, and now we are privileged to see this wonderful day at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” he said.
Rivlin emphasized the importance of Emiratis meeting the people of Israel and getting to know them, and of Israelis getting to know the people of the UAE.
“There are so many things we can do together,” he said.
Rivlin invited Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to visit Israel. He delivered his opening remarks in Arabic and then switched to Hebrew.
Khaja, speaking in Arabic, brought greetings from the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and said it was personally very moving to be in Israel and in the presence of the president.
His speech illustrated the common aspirations of the two countries. A new day of tolerance and cooperation was dawning in the Middle East, “today more than ever,” he said.
Khaja said he was certain the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE would enhance stability and security in the region.
He cited the manner in which Israel is working to overcome COVID-19, underscoring that both Israel and the UAE are among world leaders in vaccinating their populations.
Unlike the traditional robes he wore at his swearing-in ceremony in the UAE last month, Khaja on Monday was attired in a Western-style business suit.
Following the official statements, the president and the ambassador sat down for a working meeting in English.
The importance that Israel attaches to its diplomatic relations with the UAE was apparent in the way Khaja was received.
In a complete break with standard protocol, Khaja was allowed to cut the line of ambassadors waiting to present their letters of credence to Rivlin in an official ceremony in the main hall of the President’s Residence.
Traditionally, the president and the new ambassadors do not make statements to the press, an honor reserved for foreign heads of state who are on official visits to Israel. In this case, however, both Rivlin and Khaja made statements to the press.
Plus, the IDF band added to its repertoire on Monday by playing the UAE’s national anthem as the ambassador entered the presidential compound.
Earlier, Khaja met with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who said it was “another historic day in the Middle East and a great step toward strengthening peace between our countries and nations.”

“We have a historic opportunity to present a model of warm, comprehensive peace,” he added.
The exchange of embassies is “critical for establishing bilateral relations and promoting peace,” Ashkenazi said.
UAE Ambassador to Israel Muhammad Mahmoud Al Khafa and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi give each other the traditional coronavirus-era greeting of elbow bumping (Foreign Ministry)UAE Ambassador to Israel Muhammad Mahmoud Al Khafa and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi give each other the traditional coronavirus-era greeting of elbow bumping (Foreign Ministry)
Khaja was expected to present his credentials, visit Yad Vashem and meet with Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen. He may also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week.
The UAE ambassador will be in Israel for four days to scout a location for the Emirati Embassy. He is expected to come to Israel full-time at the end of the month.
After meeting with Ashkenazi, Khaja held a meeting with the Emirati Embassy’s diplomatic staff together with Foreign Ministry staff, led by Director-General Alon Ushpiz and Deputy Director-General for the Middle East Chaim Regev.
Khaja has been tweeting in Hebrew, English and Arabic in recent days.
Following his meeting with Rivlin, he tweeted in all three languages: “I look forward to representing my beloved country and working to strengthen cooperation and relations between our two countries.”