Israel stands with the United Arab Emirates against Iranian terror and looks forward to a burgeoning economic relationship, Prime Minister Yair Lapid told visiting UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, when the two met in Jerusalem to mark the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords.
“Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with you in the face of any terrorist attack,” said Lapid.
The creation of regional defense architecture to combat Iran has been one of the important byproducts of the agreement, under whose auspice Israel forged peace with four Arab states including the UAE.
To underscore the threat both countries face from Tehran, Lapid referenced the January attack – using missiles and drones – near the Abu Dhabi airport by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group that killed three.
“Last January, I was appalled, as was every Israeli and every civilized person, by the criminal drone attack on your beautiful country,” Lapid said. “Regrettably, we have experience in this area [of terror]. We know how it feels. And we know which country is behind these attacks. We know what needs to be done in response, and we know the right way to do it.”
"Last January, I was appalled, as was every Israeli, and every civilized person, by the criminal drone attack on your beautiful country,"Prime Minister Yair Lapid
Bin Zayed’s visit was a historic one from a strategic partner, and a “regional leader who will advance the regional architecture we have been building this past year in the Middle East,” Lapid said, adding that it would “strengthen economic and security ties between our countries.”
More than that, “it is a visit of a close and dear friend, with whom I can talk about everything.”
What comes next for the Abraham Accords?
Under the Abraham Accords, Israel also normalized ties with Bahrain and Morocco. Sudan has agreed to do so as well. But the Israel-UAE ties have progressed at a fairly rapid peace, with a focus on the people-to-people relationship. Israel signed a free-trade agreement with the UAE this year, which is expected to reach $2.5 billion in trade by the end of the year. There is now an Israel Embassy in Abu Dhabi and a UAE one in Tel Aviv, with posted ambassadors.
In listing the benefits of the Abraham Accords, Bin Zayed said that almost half a million Israelis have visited the UAE in the last two years, and that this year’s trade numbers between Israel and the UAE broke those of last year within six months.
“I hope this relationship continues to be useful, exciting, but more importantly,” that it is “a relationship where Emirates and Israelis feel the benefit and feel the joy,” said Bin Zayed, and that he wanted people to “feel the pride and feel the hope for a region” in which these emotions have been absent “for a long time.”
Bin Zayed brought with him a high-level delegation that discussed with a high-level team of Israelis economic cooperation in the fields of agriculture, energy, water, food security, tourism and more.
Both Lapid and Bin Zayed spoke of their interest in seeing more countries join the Abraham Accords. Lapid recalled some of the highlights of the last two years, including the meeting of the Negev Forum in Israel that included US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and foreign ministers from Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt.
Lapid told Bin Zayed that his leadership and willingness to advance ties with Israel had inspired cooperation in others. He gave him a copy of Rabbi Saadia Gaon’s Arabic translation of the Torah.
Lapid said that the relationship was just in its infancy, and that the best was yet to come.
“We have made huge strides this past year, but we have not even scratched the surface of the potential for cooperation in all fields – the economy, food security, energy, water, cyber and, of course, security,” said Lapid. “We are changing the face of the Middle East. We are changing it from war to peace, from terrorism to economic cooperation, from a discourse of violence and extremism to a dialogue of tolerance and cultural curiosity.”
"We have made huge strides this past year, but we have not even scratched the surface of the potential for cooperation in all fields— the economy, food security, energy, water, cyber, and of course, security."Prime Minister Yair Lapid
Bin Zayed's visit to Yad Vashem
During his trip to Israel, Bin Zayed met with President Isaac Herzog and also visited Yad Vashem. “My presence here today reminds us of the lessons that history teaches us, and the great responsibility we have to practice tolerance for the sake of building our communities and societies,” he wrote in the guest book. “We must take brave steps to build a bridge of real peace for future generations.”
Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan said Bin Zayed’s visit “is a momentous occasion, for an Arab state official to visit Yad Vashem in order to commemorate the six million Jewish men, women and children.” Such a visit, he said, “sends the message that regardless of background, religion or race, we all have the duty to learn about the Holocaust and combat antisemitism in all its forms, wherever it rears its ugly head around the world, immediately and vigorously.”
Former UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov tweeted that Bin Zayed was the first Arab leader to lay a wreath at Yad Vashem since the visit of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat 45 years earlier. “History in the making,” he wrote.
Dignitaries gathered in the evening for a special reception to honor Bin Zayed. Herzog announced that he intends to visit Bahrain in the coming months as a guest of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Former UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov tweed that Bin Zayed was the first Arab leader to lay a wreath at Yad Vashem scene the visit of former Egyptian President 45 years earlier. ·
"History in the making," he wrote.