Herzog arrives in the UAE after wrapping up visit to Bahrain

On second leg of trip to two Arab nations that normalized ties with Israel in 2020, president will attend Abu Dhabi forum on space exploration alongside India’s Narendra Modi

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

President Isaac Herzog lands in Abu Dhabi, where he is greeted by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed, December 5, 2022. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)
President Isaac Herzog lands in Abu Dhabi, where he is greeted by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed, December 5, 2022. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

ABU DHABI — President Isaac Herzog left Bahrain on Monday morning and landed in the United Arab Emirates for the second leg of his trip to meet with Israel’s allies in the Gulf.

Herzog was greeted at the airport in Abu Dhabi by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed.

The Israeli president is set to meet with Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, later on Monday.

He will also attend the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, a forum on space exploration policy that will also feature Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Herzog will then fly back to Israel, wrapping up the two-day trip. As president, Herzog already visited the UAE earlier this year to participate in the Expo 2020 Dubai.

The president’s trip to Bahrain, the first by an Israeli head of state to the island kingdom, centered on the unrealized business potential between the two nations.

President Isaac Herzog (L) meets with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (R) at the Al-Qudaibiya Palace in Manama, Bahrain, December 4, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Iran, a threat that occupies the minds of Israeli and Bahraini officials, was not mentioned by Herzog, Bahrain’s King Hamad, or Foreign Minister Abdul Latef Al-Zayani in their public statements.

Instead, they hammered home the importance of upgrading the economic ties between the nations, which signed the Abraham Accords in 2020.

On Sunday evening, Herzog joined Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad at the Bahrain Economic Development Board.

According to sources close to the Bahraini government, Manama feels the economic relationship is somewhat one-sided, and is eager to attract Israeli investment to the kingdom.

Herzog was joined by officials from Israel’s Export Institute, Innovation Authority, Manufacturer’s Association, Federation of Chambers of Commerce, and Start-Up Nation Central.

Officials at the economic forum told The Times of Israel that by January there would be five direct weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Manama, and hte next few months would see the number rise to seven.

Earlier Sunday, Herzog met with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The monarch underscored his support for the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” in his public statement delivered alongside the visiting Israeli head of state.

Notably, the monarch did not mention a Palestinian state, nor did either leader bring up Iran, a country that both see as an enemy.

King Hamad met Herzog at Manama’s Al-Qudaibiya Palace, where a military band played the national anthems of both countries.

At the beginning of their meeting, the president gave the monarch a silver mezuzah.

According to Herzog’s office, the two leaders discussed ways to expand the bilateral relationship.

Herzog also met with members of the local Jewish community while he was in Bahrain.

President Isaac Herzog (right) meets with members of the Bahrain Jewish community in Manama on December 4, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Israel normalized ties with the UAE and Bahrain in 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords. The agreement paved the way for normalization with Morocco months later.

Ahead of his departure from Israel, Herzog said the trip was “predominantly a message of peace in the region.”

Writing for The Times of Israel on Sunday, Herzog said that he would be focusing on translating the Abraham Accords into tangible benefits for private citizens, including through a free trade deal with Bahrain.

The visits take place as the Gulf has seen recent displays of anti-Israel sentiment, cracking the façade of widespread backing for normalization in both Bahrain and the UAE. Opposition to official government policy is rare in both countries run by authoritarian regimes, but support for the Abraham Accords has been declining in both places.

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