Herzog to fly to Abu Dhabi for condolence visit over president's death

Senior sources have said that President Isaac Herzog is planning on flying to the UAE to represent Israel at the funeral of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed.

 Israeli President Isaac Herzog with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on January 30, 2022. (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Israeli President Isaac Herzog with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on January 30, 2022.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog will represent Israel at the funeral of former President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, which will take place this week in Abu Dhabi.

Herzog is expected to meet with the new president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan

also known as MbZ – to offer him personal condolences and to congratulate him on taking office.

This will be Herzog’s second visit to Abu Dhabi since taking office.

Sheikh Mohammed was one of the main orchestrators of secret relations between Israel and the UAE 25 years ago as well as being the leader who made the decision to sign a peace agreement as part of the Abraham Accords with Israel.

 Israeli President Isaac Herzog and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan meet in Abu Dhabi, Jan. 30, 2022.  (credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO) Israeli President Isaac Herzog and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan meet in Abu Dhabi, Jan. 30, 2022. (credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

The new, 61-year-old leader had already been wielding power for years during which he led a realignment of the Middle East that created a new anti-Iran axis with Israel and invested in the UAE military which, coupled with its oil wealth, extended Emirati influence.

It was not clear if US President Joe Biden would be among world leaders heading to Abu Dhabi to offer condolences following Khalifa’s death. French President Emmanuel Macron is due to arrive on Sunday.

During his time in charge, the former president helped transform the UAE into a thriving regional power and a major business and technology hub. It was also under his administration that the Emirates normalized ties with Israel in the historic Abraham Accords.

However, in 2014, he suffered a stroke and, while stable, most authority was given over to MbZ. “This is a great loss for our friends in the UAE and for the whole region,” Herzog said in a statement. “Sheikh Khalifa’s bold leadership contributed so much to the advancement of the UAE and its people and to the growing partnership between our countries and is a great legacy for his successors. His life’s work pushed the Middle East to new horizons of prosperity and cooperation.”

“In the name of the State of Israel, we send our deepest condolences to the leadership and people of the UAE on the passing of HH President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted. “May his memory be a blessing.”

“History is determined by human beings. It is determined by people who know history but are willing to change it. It is determined by people who prefer the future over the past,” noted Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

“Such a leader was Sheikh Khalifa – and his legacy is partnership and peace and brotherhood between peoples. A brave leader who looked forward and worked for the future; a leader who continued the path of the founding father of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan.”

“This is a sad day for all who share and believe in the path of peace,” Lapid said. “We will continue to work together for our people and in memory of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.”

The Jewish community of the UAE expressed “profound sadness” on Nahyan’s passing, sending their condolences to the deceased president’s family.

The community also said in its statement that under his leadership, it “has experienced unprecedented flourishing among the many communities of the UAE.”

“May the memory and legacy of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan always be a blessing,” the community concluded.