'Peace is a way of life'

Lapid in joint op-ed with Emirati FM: We must urge other states to join us

Foreign minister forges personal bond with counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed during two-day trip to UAE

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid shakes hands with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, on June 29, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid shakes hands with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, on June 29, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem GPO)

A day after his historic two-day trip to the United Arab Emirates, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid published a joint op-ed with his Emirati counterpart in The National, a private English-language publication from Abu Dhabi.

“With the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel, our two countries set out to determine a new paradigm for our region: one defined by the joint pursuit of peace, stability, security, prosperity and co-existence for our peoples,” wrote Lapid and UAE Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan on Thursday.

The op-ed was titled, “UAE-Israel peace is more than an agreement. It’s a way of life.”

The two diplomats, who spent Tuesday night in deep conversation over dinner,  pointed at the many benefits both countries have enjoyed since signing the Abraham Accords in September 2020.

“We have witnessed high-level trade delegations exploring promising opportunities for trade and investment, including in the healthcare, aviation, agriculture, education, telecommunications, energy, technology and tourism sectors,” they wrote.

“We have seen our countries closely collaborate on vaccine research and development as the UAE and Israel have become world leaders in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) and Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz (C), listen to Elazar Cohen, commissioner of the Israel pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020, as he explains the pavilion, on June 30, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

Lapid and bin Zayed indicated that they would work to bring other Arab countries into the Abraham Accords framework.

“Peace isn’t an agreement you sign – it’s a way of life,” they concluded. “The ceremonies we held this week aren’t the end of the road. They are just the beginning.”

During his trip, Lapid officially inaugurated Israel’s consulate in Dubai on Wednesday, and opened Israel’s embassy in Abu Dhabi the day before, hailing the “historic moment” as a time “we chose peace over war.”

The opening of the consulate came after Lapid visited Israel’s pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020 trade fair.

Lapid’s was the first official visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf state, although the country has unofficially hosted Israeli ministers in the past, including then-transportation minister Israel Katz and then-sports minister Miri Regev.

Lapid’s visit was clearly of great importance to the Emiratis. The country’s major print newspapers in both English and Arabic led with a picture of the foreign minister above the fold, an indication of government priorities.

The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, intervened to ensure the Israeli delegation had catered kosher meals at the hotel, instead of the pre-packaged kosher meals that had been ordered.

Morning newspapers in the UAE lead with Yair Lapid’s visit, on June 30, 2021. (Foreign Ministry)

And at every engagement, the hosts emphasized their confidence that ties would expand dramatically, and that the change of government in Israel and recent conflict in Gaza would have no effect on that trend.

The trip 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 and the Emirates announced in August 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 have come to fruition.

The opening of the embassy in Abu Dhabi was cheered by United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met Sunday with Lapid in Rome. Blinken said in a statement that the establishment of the diplomatic mission and Lapid’s visit to the UAE “are significant for Israel, the UAE, and the broader region.”

On Tuesday, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted “good luck to Israel’s new embassy in Abu Dhabi” without mentioning Lapid or the new government that saw him replaced as prime minister.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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