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Israel opens embassy in Abu Dhabi

Ambassador Eytan Na’eh arrived yesterday to Abu Dhabi, officially opening Israel’s first embassy to the United Arab Emirates.

Four months after the signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House, Israel opened its embassy yesterday in the United Arab Emirates. The embassy will be located in a provisory office until the Foreign Ministry decides on a permanent location.

Israel’s former ambassador to Turkey, Eitan Na’eh, will serve as charge d’affaires in Abu Dhabi until a permanent ambassador is appointed.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Foreign Ministry said the new embassy “will advance the range of relations between the countries in all areas and expand ties with the Emirati government, economic bodies and the private sector, academia, media and more.”

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi wished Na'eh the best of luck in his new mission. He said the ministry is leading the implementation of the peace and normalization agreements in the Gulf. "Opening the mission will allow the expansion of bilateral ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates for the maximum and speedy realization of the potential in those relations," said Ashkenazi.

Na’eh himself arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday morning. Embarking on the plane at Ben Gurion Airport, Na’eh tweeted, "Home and away — with my hometown name [Kiryat Bialik] on the El Al plane that brought us to the Emirates. Saying 'Excited to be here' will be an understatement."

According to the Foreign Ministry, Israel will open a general consulate in Dubai in the coming days. It will also open soon a liaison office in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. An embassy was opened in Bahrain a few weeks ago.

Relations between Israel and the Emirates have advanced rapidly. Former President Donald Trump first announced normalization between Israel and the Emirates and Bahrain in mid-August. As aforementioned, the formal agreements were signed a month later. On Oct. 20, a senior Emirati ministerial delegation arrived in Israel, with the two countries signing a series of agreements at Ben Gurion Airport. These included an aviation agreement for 28 direct flights between Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and an agreement for visa exemption. On that occasion, the Emirati delegation presented Ashkenazi with a formal request to open an embassy in Israel.  

A few days after, a large Israeli economic and trade delegation arrived in the Emirates. In parallel, Israeli authorities approved the trading of the Emirati dirham in Israel. The Emiratis on their side authorized bilateral agriculture trade. The visa exemption agreement was ratified by the Emirati parliament on Jan. 13. Its implementation has been delayed until July due to the coronavirus pandemic. But even without the agreement, tens of thousands of Israelis have already visited Dubai, taking advantage of the short, direct flights. Several Dubai hotels and restaurants now also offer kosher food. More so, some Israelis chose in the past two months to hold their weddings in the Emirates, where gatherings are still allowed. Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef visited Abu Dhabi and Dubai on Dec. 20 in the first-ever visit by a sitting chief rabbi to an Arab country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to visit the Emirates and Bahrain in mid-February, and he will participate in the opening ceremony of the embassy in Abu Dhabi. Once Netanyahu makes his visit, other Israeli ministers could also plan official visits to both countries.

In the same spirit of advancing ties with Arab countries, the Israeli Cabinet officially approved yesterday the normalization of relations with Morocco.

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