Visa-free travel between Israel and UAE to start next week

The agreement was announced by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and will begin on October 10.

 Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked visits the UAE (photo credit: Courtesy)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked visits the UAE
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Israelis and Emiratis will be able to travel to each other’s countries without a visa as of Sunday, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Tuesday.

Shaked announced the visa-free travel, which will begin on October 10, while on a trip to the United Arab Emirates.

Israeli tourists and those traveling to the UAE for business will not need visas to enter the country. Those who plan to study, work or volunteer in the UAE, or are traveling for religious reasons, will still need a visa.

If COVID-19 infection rates continue to drop, Israel plans to allow vaccinated tourists to enter Israel at the end of October.

Israel and the UAE signed a visa-free agreement in January, but the Emiratis put it on hold soon after due to the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, Israelis visiting the UAE would have had to quarantine for two weeks due to high infection rates in the Gulf state.

Now, Israelis who have received three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine only need to quarantine until receiving PCR test results after returning from abroad from most countries, including the UAE.

Shaked said that on her trip to the UAE, in which she visited Abu Dhabi and Dubai, she “experienced true peace” and that the government was an “extraordinarily gracious host, showing that a true partnership was formed between the countries.”

During her trip, she met with Emirati Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whose responsibilities also include homeland security.

“Abu Dhabi is one of the safest cities in the world, and we have a lot to learn from the local police,” Shaked said. “It’s a smart city; with a network of cameras and with various applications they managed to reduce crime and traffic accidents to a minimum.”

Shaked also said she told Al Nahyan “about the Bedouin in Israel and the various problems,” and that he gave her some ideas for solutions.

In addition, the ministers discussed interreligious dialogue and religious diversity in their countries.

Shaked, whose ministry includes non-Jewish religious services in Israel, suggested that Israeli imams could attend seminars and training courses in the UAE on religious moderation, tolerance and discouraging violence. The Interior Ministry employs 300 imams and muezzins in 270 mosques.

While in Abu Dhabi, Shaked visited the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and the Oasis of Dignity, the UAE’s war memorial.

Shaked also plans to visit the Israel Pavilion at the Dubai Expo, which she called “an excellent platform to leverage connections and develop new economic opportunities between Israel, the UAE and the whole world.”

 Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked visits the UAE (credit: Courtesy) Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked visits the UAE (credit: Courtesy)
MEANWHILE, ISRAEL plans to dedicate its pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on Wednesday, with several ministers present.

The pavilion marks the first time Israel has participating in such a major event in an Arab country. The UAE invited Israel to take part in 2018, before the Abraham Accords that established peace and diplomatic relations between the countries.

Expo 2020 is the third largest event in the world, following the Olympic Games and the World Cup, with 191 countries participating for six months. The number of visitors expected is over 25 million, with some 15 million anticipated to visit the Israel Pavilion.

The Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office led the team establishing the Israel Pavilion, which included 17 ministries, the Jewish National Fund and Israel Electric Company.

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov plans to launch the pavilion on Wednesday. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg are also in Dubai for the event.

The Israel Pavilion was created by the AVS company, under the stewardship of Israel’s Expo 2020 Commissioner-General Elazar Cohen.

The pavilion’s theme is “connecting thoughts – creating the future,” and its title, featuring prominently in its design in Hebrew and Arabic is “To Tomorrow.”

The design is inspired by the desert dunes in Israel and the UAE. It is completely open on two ends, without doors, meant to show openness and allow even those who do not visit to see Israel’s content.

“The design reflects the concept that the power of the future connects us and that creating a better future for all of humanity is within reach if we connect minds and unite forces,” the official government statement on the pavilion explained.

Among the topics featured in the pavilion are opportunity, mobility and sustainability, and Israel plans to share its capabilities in agriculture, cybersecurity, medical equipment, water technology and more. The pavilion will host economic events, conferences and business meetings, and dozens of business delegations from Israel and around the world are expected to visit.

Zandberg led an Israeli delegation to the Dubai Expo’s Climate and Biodiversity Week, which began on Monday, and called on countries to use the event as an opportunity to establish ties with Israel.

The Environmental Protection minister said that peace between countries in the region can lead to technological breakthroughs and economic growth that will improve the lives of billions of people.

“I call on all the countries in the region, including countries with which we still do not have official relations, to use Expo Dubai as a diving board into cooperation that is so critical to our shared future,” she stated.

As for the environment, Zandberg said, “I expect and hope to cooperate with the UAE and all the countries that signed the Abraham Accords in many areas, including preparation for the climate crisis. Trillions of dollars will be invested in the area of climate in the coming decade, and the countries at the forefront of environmental innovation today will be in a good position to fulfill a leading role in the upcoming global climate change. That is the message of our delegation.”

Zandberg held a working meeting with her Emirati counterpart, Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, at the Israel Pavilion on Tuesday, in which they followed up on a cooperation agreement signed in July.

Shaked also plans to visit the Israel Pavilion at the Dubai Expo, which she called “an excellent platform to leverage connections and develop new economic opportunities between Israel, the UAE and the whole world.”

Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund is taking part in the Dubai Expo as “Israel’s largest environmental NGO,” its chief scientist, Doron Merkel, said.

“We continue to promote large-scale research projects that put Israel at the forefront of tackling the climate crisis and desertification process that is going on throughout the region,” Merkel explained.

KKL-JNF is developing a Global Center for Combating the Climate Crisis, tasked with creating technological solutions to assist in the fight against climate change, using its expertise in agriculture and water in arid and semi-arid desert regions. Over two billion people currently live in arid regions, and the number is expected to increase due to population growth and climate change, the scientist warned.

“We hope to foster an atmosphere of international cooperation to promote these advancements, namely with Persian Gulf countries and other regional actors,” Merkel added.