Israeli delegation said headed to UAE next week to move forward on deal

Mossad chief to reportedly lead team in open visit to Gulf state after nations announce formalized ties; Abu Dhabi’s FM ‘encouraged’ by world’s positive response to accord

File: A view of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
File: A view of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

An Israeli delegation will travel to the United Arab Emirates early next week to meet with the Gulf state’s top leadership, according to a Friday report, a day after the two nations announced an agreement to normalize relations.

Channel 12 news said a senior Israeli official would lead the team, while the Ynet news site reported this would be Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, who is said to have led normalization efforts over the past year.

The Prime Minister’s office said that National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat would lead the preparations for the talks “in coordination with all the relevant parties.”

The statement gave no details on when the talks would take place or who would lead the delegation.

Some aspects of the normalization agreement may be signed during the visit, Channel 12 said. It also said the sides would schedule a meeting between the leaders of the two nations to take place within the next few weeks.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he believed a deal-signing ceremony at the White House could take place in about three weeks.

Meanwhile on Friday the UAE’s Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said the positive reactions to the agreement from around the world were “encouraging.”

Israel and the UAE announced the historic agreement the previous day, the third such deal the Jewish state has struck with an Arab country after Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994).

In a joint statement issued by the White House, the sides said they had reached a deal for “the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”

They said delegations from Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi would “meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit.”

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen attends US Independence Day celebrations at the residence of US ambassador David Friedman in Herzliya, July 3, 2017. (Heidi Levine, Pool via AP/File)

And they added that “as a result of this diplomatic breakthrough and at the request of President Trump with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.”

Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said Thursday they believed more Arab countries would soon follow the UAE’s lead.

A senior Israeli official told the Kan public broadcaster that Bahrain was expected to be the next country to establish official ties with Israel, while a senior American official told Palestinian media that Bahrain and Oman were both expected to normalize ties in the near future.

According to Israeli sources, Thursday’s breakthrough — formally called the Abraham Accords — was preceded by weeks of intensive talks between officials in Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner speaks at a press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, after President Donald Trump announced that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

They are also reported to have followed months of efforts by Mossad chief Cohen.

Kushner said talks ramped up in the wake of UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba’s unprecedented June 12 op-ed on the front page of an Israeli newspaper, in which he dangled the prospects of full relations while warning against Jerusalem’s plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.

Netanyahu on Friday also thanked Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, saying he helped bring about the deal. “He worked quietly behind the scenes with great determination and skill with his Emirati counterpart and the White House team to bring this about,” Netanyahu tweeted, referring to al-Otaiba.

Announcing the deal Thursday, Netanyahu declared that he was not abandoning his plans to apply Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank.

“There is no change to our plans to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, in coordination with the US,” he said. “I remain committed to that.” However, Trump had asked him to “temporarily halt” the move, he added.

However, proponents of annexation on the right were despondent, seeing this as little more than lip service, as the UAE agreement would likely fall through if efforts are restarted.

Luke Tress contributed to this report.

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