by: Ilse Strauss
Wednesday, 21 October 2020 | The phrase “history in the making” has resounded through the Middle East discourse over the past few weeks—and for good reason. Two normalization treaties in under a month and the promise of more to come after a peace drought of nearly three decades, former foes cementing friendships and forging mutually beneficial business deals, open skies and borders that were firmly shut finally creaking open clearly fall into the “events that will go down in history” category.
Yesterday marked another such milestone.
Just after noon, an Etihad Airways flight—proudly sporting the flags of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel—touched down at Ben Gurion International Airport. On board was a senior UAE delegation headed by the ministers of finance and economy about to set foot in the Jewish state for the first time for a whirlwind five-hour trip of bilateral talks with their Israeli counterparts on the implementation of the peace deal the two countries signed last month in Washington.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on the tarmac to welcome the first ever Emirati ministers to visit Israel publically.
“Today we are making history,” the prime minister said, “we are making history in a way that will stand for generations. The enthusiasm for this peace agreement among our people is enormous. It’s real, it’s broad, it’s deep, and it reflects the potential that is realized today.”
Hailing the fruits of peace that both countries will soon enjoy, including bilateral agreements, a visa waiver, direct flights, mutual embassies and a trilateral investment fund, Netanyahu continued, “The visit of such a high-level delegation from the UAE, and the agreements we are about to sign, will show our peoples, the region and the entire world the benefit of having friendly, peaceful, normal exchanges.”
During the course of yesterday’s visit, Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi inked four bilateral treaties in the areas of aviation, investment protection, science and technology and visa exemption. The latter allows citizens from both nations to visit each other’s countries without going through the cumbersome process of applying for an entrance visa first. It marks the first such treaty between the Jewish state and an Arab state.
“This will offer a huge boost for business, for tourism, for people-to-people contacts,” Netanyahu vowed.
In another milestone development, representatives from Israel, the US and the UAE announced the establishment of a trilateral US $3 billion fund. The development fund—aptly named the Abraham Fund for the Abraham Accords that formalized Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi’s friendship—will be based in Jerusalem and earmarked to ignite prosperity in the troubled Middle East.
“The Abraham Fund investment will go a long way to boost even further the historic change that we’re doing,” Netanyahu announced. “This is an investment in infrastructure. It’s really an investment in the future and in many projects.”
Also during the visit, the Emirati delegations handed Israel Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi an official missive penned by his UAE counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed expressing the UAE’s wish to open reciprocal embassies in Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.
The letter, reportedly written in Hebrew, also thanks Ashkenazi for “the efforts you are making to promote cooperation between our countries and I have full faith in your unreserved support for opening diplomatic missions…as soon as possible.”
Israel handed the UAE a similar letter expressing the same wish after the two nations inked the Abraham Accords.
Five hours after touching down in the Jewish state—with four bilateral agreements signed, a regional development fund established, trilateral and the first-ever bilateral meetings between Israeli and Emirati ministers concluded and promises of future cooperation exchanged, the UAE delegation headed home.
“We shall remember this day,” Netanyahu vowed. “A glorious day of peace.”
Posted on October 21, 2020
Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 21, 2020)
Photo Credit: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem/flickr.com
Photo License: flickr.com
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