Israel will take part in the 2020 World Expo in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai, the Foreign Ministry announced Thursday, in another sign of warming relations with Gulf Arab states.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s participation was “another expression of Israel’s rising status in the world and the region.”
The Foreign Ministry said it welcomed “the opportunity to share our spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship and to present Israeli innovations and trailblazing technology in various fields such as water, medicine and information technology.”
“Expos are meeting places where people all over the world come together and take advantage of each other’s talents to face joint challenges and advance society,” it said.
Watch construction work in the 2020 fairgrounds
The expo, the latest in the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions’ (BIE) “universal expositions,” will see over 190 countries showcase their cultures, innovations and visions for the future.
“We have invited every country in the world without exception,” organizers in Dubai announced, saying it would be “a truly international event.”
“For more than 170 years, World Expos have been apolitical events focused on furthering humanity for the common good through innovation, cultural exchange, creativity and collaboration. We are proud to continue that tradition,” the organizers said in a statement.
Vicente G. Loscertales, head of the BIE, said that “by inviting all countries of the world to take part, including the State of Israel, the organizers of Expo 2020 are genuinely reflecting the universal spirit of World Expos.”
The BIE describes expos, which follow in the tradition of London’s 1851 Great Exhibition, as “large-scale, global events… to educate the public, share innovation, promote progress and foster cooperation.”
Expo 2020, which runs from October 20 next year to April 20, 2021, is set to attract some 25 million visitors to the glitzy emirate, famed for its luxury resorts and opulent shopping malls.
The Expo 2010 in Shanghai drew 73 million visitors, and Expo 2015 in Milan attracted over 21 million, according to the BIE.
Dubai’s government has already spent over $40 billion on major infrastructure projects related to the Expo, including a new $2.9-billion metro line and an expansion to a new airport near the Expo site.
The mega-event is expected to give the United Arab Emirates an economic boost of over $33 billion, consultants Ernst and Young said in a study earlier this month.
The last World Expo was held in Milan, Italy in 2015. In that exposition, the Israeli pavilion was designed as a giant “vertical field” of wheat, rice and corn. It was intended to showcase Israeli expertise in the drip-irrigation technology that has enabled the cultivation of crops in arid areas around the world after being first developed on a kibbutz in the Negev desert.
Watch a video of the Israeli pavilion in 2015 below
Despite their lack of diplomatic relations, Sunni Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have quietly inched closer to Israel, seeing it as a key ally in rolling back their common adversary, Iran.
Over the past months, Israel’s backdoor relations with former Arab foes have increasingly entered public view.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev traveled to the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi last year for the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament, and the Israeli national anthem was played for the first time on the Arabian peninsula after Sagi Muki won gold in the under-81 kilogram category.
According to a survey published in October by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, 42 percent of the public in the Emirates is interested in establishing relations with Israel.
US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt on Thursday night praised the UAE for continuing “to welcome & include all” following Israel’s announcement.
“Thank you to our great friend and ally #UAE for this continued momentum,” he tweeted.
AP contributed to this report.