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Herzog announces historic trip to UAE next week, will meet crown prince

President to open Israel national day at Dubai Expo during two-day jaunt to Gulf state, in first-ever official visit by an Israeli president

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Composite image shows Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, left, and President Isaac Herzog, right. (Markus Schreiber/AP, Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Composite image shows Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, left, and President Isaac Herzog, right. (Markus Schreiber/AP, Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

President Isaac Herzog will fly to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, marking the first-ever official visit by an Israeli president to the Gulf state.

Herzog was invited for the two-day visit by Abu Dhabi’s powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, known colloquially as MBZ and seen as the UAE’s de facto ruler.

Herzog is slated to meet with bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Dubai ruler Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, senior government officials, and members of the Jewish community in the country.

The president will also open Israel’s national day at Dubai Expo 2020 on Monday.

“We have the privilege of making history by making the first visit of an Israeli president to the United Arab Emirates,” Herzog said in a statement on Tuesday. “This important visit comes as the Israeli and Emirati nations are busy laying the foundations of a new shared future. I believe that our bold new partnership will transform the Middle East and inspire the whole region. We are a peace-loving nation, and together we will expand the historic circle of peace of the Abraham Accords and create a better, more tolerant, and safer world for our children.”

The president will travel with his wife Michal.

US President Donald Trump, center, with, from left, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, September 15, 2020, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Israel and the UAE forged ties in the United States-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020, bringing over a decade of covert contacts into the open, and have seen their relationship flourish since then.

The president’s visit comes as the UAE has come under missile attack from Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Last week, a drone attack on oil facilities in  Abu Dhabi killed three workers.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “ordered the Israeli security establishment to provide their counterparts in the UAE with any assistance” that could help to protect against future attacks.

“Israel stands with the UAE,” he wrote in a letter to Bin Zayed. “I stand with [Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Zayed. The world should stand against terror.”

In December, Bennett met with MBZ at the latter’s palace in Abu Dhabi, as part of the first official visit by an Israeli premier to the UAE.

In this photo provided by the Israel Government Press Office, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, received by an honor guard and the UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. (Haim Zach/Israel Government Press Office via AP)

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was instrumental in the signing of the Abraham Accords, repeatedly tried to schedule a visit to the UAE, but was forced to cancel on a number of occasions and never officially made the trip as premier.

In June, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid officially inaugurated Israel’s embassy in the UAE.

According to Bennett’s office, bin Zayed is expected to visit Israel at the prime minister’s invitation.

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