UAE and Bahrain parliaments approve accords with Israel

Emirati ministers to visit Israel Tuesday after UAE, Bahrain approve deals

UAE finance and economy ministers expected in Jewish state for 4-hour visit that will include first bilateral talks aimed at implementing normalization agreements signed last month

National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat elbow bumps with an Emirati official ahead of boarding the plane before leaving Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, September 1, 2020. (Nir Elias/Pool/AFP)
National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat elbow bumps with an Emirati official ahead of boarding the plane before leaving Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, September 1, 2020. (Nir Elias/Pool/AFP)

Less than a week after the Knesset voted to approve historic normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, a high-level delegation of ministers and dignitaries from the Gulf nation will visit Israel on Tuesday and meet with Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The visit is set to take place a day after both the UAE and Bahrain on Monday gave parliamentary approval to their respective normalization agreements with Israel.

The senior delegation from the UAE, which will be headed by its finance and economy ministers, is expected to arrive in Israel at noon Tuesday for a four-hour visit that will include bilateral talks geared at implementing the normalization agreement signed in Washington last month.

It will be the first time UAE ministers visit the Jewish state publicly since the two countries announced the normalization of ties on August 13.

After landing, Finance Minister Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri will be welcomed at Ben Gurion airport by Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, who was said to have been instrumental in finalizing the deal.

The brief welcoming ceremony is set to be followed by public statements from Al Maktoum, Al Mansouri, Netanyahu, and Ashkenazi, before the four sign a number of the agreements ratified by both the Israeli and UAE parliaments.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, left, greets UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan as German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas looks on during a visit of the Holocaust memorial prior to their historic meeting in Berlin, on October 6, 2020. (MICHELE TANTUSSI / POOL / AFP)

The UAE delegation, which will also include several high-level officials from the county’s Foreign Ministry, will then sit down for a trilateral meeting with the Israelis and a US delegation, headed by US Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin and White House envoy Avi Berkowitz, also in Israel for the occasion.

That will then be followed by a meeting, also at the airport, with just the Israeli and UAE teams — the first ever direct bilateral meeting between ministers from the two countries.

UAE ministers on Monday approved the treaty with Israel to normalize diplomatic ties, the country’s WAM news agency reported.

The cabinet is “ordering the commencement of constitutional procedures to issue a national ordinance ratifying the accord,” the report said, adding that ministers, “expressed its confidence that the agreement will form a tributary of peace and stability that supports the aspirations of the peoples of the region and enhances its relentless pursuance to achieve prosperity and progress as it paves the way towards boosting the economic, cultural and knowledge relations and taking advantage of the opportunities and potentials of the two sides to contribute to shaping a brighter future based on understanding, cooperation and mutual respect.”

At the same time, Bahrain’s cabinet also approved its agreement on the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, which the countries signed on Sunday in Manama.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and other Bahraini and Israeli officials participate in the signing ceremony of a peace agreement between Israel and Bahrain, in Manama on October 18, 2020. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem)

“The Cabinet welcomed the agreements and memoranda of understanding signed between Bahrain and Israel, noting that they are based on the vision of the Kingdom, under the leadership of HM the King, for peace as a strategic option to advance the peace and stability process in the Middle East,” according to the Bahrain News Agency.

“They are also aimed at promoting tolerance, coexistence and openness to religions and cultures to establish broader relations for the benefit of the region’s countries and peoples in order to enhance the efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue in accordance with the two-state solution, international legitimacy resolutions, and the Arab Peace Initiative,” the report quoted the cabinet as saying in a statement.

Before leaving the airport for a 4 p.m. flight back to Abu Dhabi, the UAE delegation will be treated to an exhibition on Israeli space and technology innovations, hosted by Ashkenazi.

Due to coronavirus limitations, no press will be present at any of the planned events, some of which are set to be broadcast by the Government Press Office.

On Thursday, the Knesset approved Israel’s normalization deal with the UAE by an overwhelming majority, all but ensuring that it will be ratified in the near future.

Eighty lawmakers voted in favor of the agreement, including many from the opposition. Only 13 parliamentarians — all from the Arab-majority Joint List — voted against the deal, criticizing it as a scheme to undermine the Palestinian people.

The Knesset ahead of a vote on October 15, 2020. (Gideon Sharon/Knesset)

Now approved by the Knesset, the so-called Abraham Accords will return to the desks of ministers, who will vote on them once more. Once ratified, the agreement enters into force for Israel, but full diplomatic relations between the two countries will not be established until the UAE ratifies the agreement as well.

Tuesday’s delegation is set to come days after an unofficial economic delegation of citizens from the Gulf nation visited Israel.

“An Emirati delegation headed by His Excellency Khadim Abdullah Al Dar’i, vice chairman and founding partner of Al-Dahra Agriculture, visited the State of Israel,” the Emirati official WAM news agency confirmed in a statement on Monday.

Al-Dahra Agriculture is a major exporter of animal feed and other essential food commodities, such as flour and rice. Even though Al-Dahra is a state-linked enterprise, the Emirati group that arrived in Jerusalem was not an official government-to-government delegation. Rather, Al-Dar’i and his team arrived at the invitation of Netafim, a major Israeli irrigation technology firm.

Members of the delegation also met with Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster, who announced that a memorandum of understanding had been signed between his ministry’s Volcani research institute and the Al-Dahra company.

On Thursday night, the delegation took advantage of their time in Israel to visit the the Temple Mount’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam. Videos of the delegation’s arrival at the mosque were circulated widely on Palestinian social media. Some Palestinians at the scene called out insults at the Emiratis.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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