The two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates by President Isaac Herzog will enhance relations between the UAE and Israel, according to ambassador Mohammed Al Khaja.
In July 2021, only a week after his inauguration, Herzog joined Al Khaja in opening the UAE embassy in Tel Aviv.
On Sunday, after just over six months in office, he will be the first president of the State of Israel to pay an official visit to the UAE, and the Emirates will be the first Gulf state to be visited by an Israeli president.
The countries normalized ties in August 2020, in what is known as the Abraham Accords.
During the visit, it is expected that progress will be made toward the completion of a bilateral free trade agreement.
Herzog was invited by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, with whom he has had several telephone conversations.
The visit comes as the UAE has been repeatedly attacked by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen; Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and others have made statements in solidarity with Israel’s ally in the Gulf.
Herzog will have an intensely crowded schedule during the two days in which he will experience a somewhat warmer climate than in Israel.
He will open Israel National Day at the Dubai Expo, and in addition to meeting Foreign Minister and Minister for International Cooperation Abdullah Bin Zayed, he will meet with a number of UAE dignitaries including the prime minister and other senior officials.The president will also meet with leaders of the Jewish community.
This will not be Herzog’s only historic visit in the foreseeable future. As far as is known, he will be meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara either in February or early March.
So far, information about the visit has come from Turkey rather than Israel, but a source in Jerusalem confirmed that the two presidents’ offices are planning the visit.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.