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Lapid taps business executive as first permanent envoy to UAE

Amir Hayek, head of Israel’s Hotel Association, will replace Eitan Na’eh in Abu Dhabi

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Amir Hayek. (Smadar Cafri)
Amir Hayek. (Smadar Cafri)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced on Sunday that he would appoint Amir Hayek as Israel’s permanent ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

The position is currently filled on a temporary basis by Eitan Na’eh.

Hayek is the president of the Israel Hotel Association. He previously headed the Manufacturers Association of Israel and was director-general of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor.

“Amir Hayek, deeply experienced and knowledgeable in the fields of economy and tourism, is the right person to institutionalize the bridge between Israel and the UAE. After the opening of the embassies, the time has come to appoint the first ambassador to the UAE,” Lapid said.

Hayek is a political appointee by Lapid, indicating the UAE-Israel relationship is a top-level priority for the foreign minister.

According to government decisions from 1999 and 2002, 11 senior diplomatic posts are reserved for the government — usually the prime minister and foreign minister —  to fill with political appointees. These positions are usually the highest-profile diplomatic posts, including in Washington, New York, London, Paris, Ottawa, and Canberra.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UAE, Eitan Na’eh, left, talks with an Emirati official during the Global Investment Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on June 2, 2021. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)

There are currently political appointees serving in India, Ethiopia, Houston, London, and Washington/New York.

The rest of Israel’s diplomatic positions are filled by Foreign Ministry professionals.

Last week, Lapid tapped Ronen Hoffman, a former Knesset member for Yesh Atid, to serve as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.

Then-Yesh Atid MK Ronen Hoffman, Israel’s next ambassador to Canada, during a committee meeting in the Knesset, May 30, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

After filling the Ottawa post, Israel still remains without full-time ambassadors in Paris and Canberra.

Israel and the UAE signed a US-brokered normalization agreement at the White House on September 15, 2020. The move has been followed by agreements to work toward normalization with Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke Friday with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, in his first call with the de facto ruler of the Gulf kingdom since becoming prime minister.

Na’eh, 57, arrived in Abu Dhabi in January.

Na’eh served as envoy to Turkey from 2016 to 2018, until he was expelled by Ankara in protest of the deaths of dozens of Palestinians in violent clashes with Israeli forces on the border with the Gaza Strip.

During his departure, he was forced to undergo an intensive security check as invited Turkish news cameras filmed, underlining the squabbles between Israel and Turkey he oversaw from Ankara.

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