Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg were in the United Arab Emirates this week for meetings with officials on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo, which kicked off last week with an Israeli pavilion among the exhibits.
Shaked met in Abu Dhabi on Monday with her UAE counterpart, Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan. According to Shaked, the pair discussed visa-free travel between the countries, which will go into effect next week after delays due to COVID-19.
Shaked also predicted that, at the end of the month, “if COVID morbidity continues to decline, we will open up the skies to vaccinated tourists.”
The interior minister said that the UAE “is an advanced and moderate nation and Israel has much to learn from it,” adding that Nahyan provided her with some suggestions on dealing with challenges relating to Israel’s Bedouin population.
Earlier, Shaked visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the adjacent Wahat AlKarama war memorial for Emiratis killed in the line of duty.
“Today, I experienced true peace,” Shaked said on Monday. “The government went out of its way to clarify that a true partnership has been forged between the countries. I view it as very important to strengthen the strategic relationship between Israel and the UAE.” On Tuesday she was slated to visit the Israeli pavilion at the Dubai Expo.
Meanwhile, Zandberg met on Monday with UAE Climate Change and Environment Minister Mariam Almheiri to discuss joint cooperation on environmental projects.
“In July we signed in Israel a series of understandings on the environment and climate, and today we met at the Expo Dubai for our first work meeting in order to begin breaking it down into projects,” said Zandberg. “We have many shared challenges and many shared opportunities.”
Zandberg also met with Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, the secretary general of the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency. The pair discussed issues of recycling, single-use plastics, air quality, biodiversity and many other topics, according to the minister’s office.
“Israel is located in a unique geographic location, and shares many challenges with Gulf nations,” said Zandberg following her meeting with Dhaheri. “The climate crisis threatens our national security, as well as the rest of the world. We must prepare for it, and also find solutions — including moving to a carbon-free economy, while still supporting weaker populations.”
The environment minister also paid a visit to the Israeli pavilion at the Dubai Expo, which is marking a week dedicated to climate and biodiversity. In comments at the pavilion, Zandberg said Middle Eastern countries must set aside their differences to work together to tackle climate change.
“Israel can and should be a world leader in climate innovation,” she said, “and participate in the global and regional efforts to adapt to a changing world.”
Zandberg was joined at the pavilion by Dr. Doron Merkel, the chief scientist of Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael-Jewish National Fund, who announced that KKL-JNF is working to develop a new global center to combat climate change, and “will continue to promote large scale research projects that will put Israel at the forefront of tackling the climate crisis.”
Tourism Minister Yoel Razbozov is slated to visit the Israeli pavilion at the Dubai Expo later this week and also meet with a series of UAE officials, including his counterpart.