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Herzog: Blessed process cannot stop; Lapid: Historic day

‘Just the beginning’: UAE opens Tel Aviv embassy as sides hail ties

President Isaac Herzog attends opening of mission at Stock Exchange building following agreement last year to normalize diplomatic ties

Emirati Ambassador Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah (R) and President Isaac Herzog at the official opening of the UAE embassy in Tel Aviv, July 14, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Emirati Ambassador Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah (R) and President Isaac Herzog at the official opening of the UAE embassy in Tel Aviv, July 14, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday formally inaugurated its embassy in Israel, capping a process that began with an agreement to normalize diplomatic relations nearly a year ago.

The new UAE mission is housed in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange building, which hosted a ceremony Wednesday to open the embassy as new Israeli President Isaac Herzog looked on.

UAE Ambassador Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah officially presented his credentials in the beginning of March but the official opening was not held until now.

“It is a great honor to open the embassy here. Ten months ago our two countries signed the Abraham Accords with a vision of dignity, prosperity and peace for the two peoples,” Khajah said at the ceremony Wednesday.

He added: “This is just the beginning. Both countries are innovative nations and we will harness these new approaches for the prosperity of the countries.”

Herzog, who took office last week, hailed the embassy opening as an “important step for the entire Middle East.”

“To see the Emirati flag in the skies of Tel Aviv would have seemed a distant dream. Today it is a reality,” Herzog said.

He also called for a further expansion of Israel’s diplomatic ties with regional states.

“This blessed process cannot stop,” he said. “In my recent telephone conversations with leaders of the region, I again understand that we have more partners and allies in this mission than we thought.”

President Isaac Herzog (L) and Emirati Ambassador to Israel Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah cut the ribbon at the new UAE embassy in Tel Aviv on July 14, 2021. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The choice of location, in the TASE building, was no coincidence, and the Israeli and Emirati dignitaries rang a bell formally opening trading for the day. Both sides see the normalization deal as a major economic driver, joining Israeli tech prowess with Abu Dhabi’s access to world markets.

Among the other dignitaries on hand were former foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who was Israel’s top diplomat when the Israel-UAE normalization pact was announced, and UAE Minister of Food and Water Security Mariam Al-Muhairi, who is currently visiting the country.

The new UAE embassy in Tel Aviv on July 14, 2021. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was not present at the inauguration. He entered quarantine Tuesday night after one of his aides contracted the coronavirus during a visit this week to Brussels.

Lapid cheered the embassy opening as a “historic day.”

“We will continue to expand the circle of peace and normalization,” he wrote on Twitter.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (L) and his Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan meet at the UAE Foreign Ministry in Abu Dhabi, on June 29, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

Last month, Lapid visited the UAE in the first official trip by an Israeli minister to the Gulf state, where he inaugurated the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai.

The visit came nearly a year after Israel and the UAE announced they would normalize ties, and after months during which planned visits by Israeli officials were stymied by a series of issues, ranging from health crises to diplomatic scuffles.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, left, cuts a ribbon with United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja during the opening ceremony for the new UAE Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israel and the Emirates announced in August 2020 that they would normalize diplomatic relations, bringing over a decade of covert ties into the open. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco later also joined the US-brokered Abraham Accords, and other countries were also rumored to be in talks, though none has come to fruition.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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