Meeting UAE president, Herzog assures him all Israelis support Abraham Accords

Bin Zayed tells Israeli counterpart he can consider UAE his ‘second home’; addressing Abu Dhabi Space Debate, Herzog focuses on climate technologies

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

President Isaac Herzog (left) meets with UAE President Mohammed Bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi on December 5, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) meets with UAE President Mohammed Bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi on December 5, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

ABU DHABI — President Isaac Herzog met with the United Arab Emirates’s President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday, reassuring him that “the Abraham Accords are a national consensus in Israel on all sides of the political spectrum,” as a government that includes the far right prepares to take power.

The two met in Bin Zayed’s private home in Abu Dhabi.

“Now we have to reach cruising altitude,” Herzog told Bin Zayed. “That is, to upgrade ties between us even more, to strengthen them and to bring more nations into the Abraham Accords.”

Bin Zayed told Herzog that “we built a very strong bridge between the countries that we both can be proud of.”

He also told his Israeli counterpart that Herzog should consider the UAE his “second home.”

Following their meeting, Herzog was scheduled to head back to Israel after a two-day trip to the region that also saw him visit Bahrain, another Abraham Accords signatory.

President Isaac Herzog lands in Abu Dhabi, where he is greeted by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed, December 5, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prior to the meeting, Herzog said Israeli leaders must continue to work to expand the Abraham Accords.

“This visit was an opportunity to take stock after two years of the Abraham Accords,” the Israeli president told Israeli journalists.

“It started as an agreement, turned into ties between states, and now the… countries want to upgrade the agreements and are working to add more nations,” he said.

“This requires Israel’s leadership to understand that this challenge continues,” he added, as polls show declining support for the accords in all three of Israel’s new Arab partners.

In a message likely meant to allay concerns in Manama and Abu Dhabi amid political turbulence in Israel, Herzog stressed that “there is great importance to the Abraham Accords.”

Turning to the Bahrainis, he said that their approach is “to work toward peace and not conflict. The Bahrainis believe deeply in ties with the Jewish community.”

“This shows the massive change in the paradigm in the dialogue between the states and the peoples,” he said.

President Isaac Herzog meets with members of Bahrain’s Jewish community in Manama, November 4, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Earlier Monday, in his address to the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, Herzog focused on climate technologies, one of his key areas of interest as president.

“There is no doubt that in the future, the fate of humanity will depend on outer space,” he said. “But in the immediate present, the ultimate value of space technologies lies in saving the planet we already have.”

Herzog lauded the “evolving space partnership with the United Arab Emirates,” including joint satellite research monitoring vegetation.

“Our cooperation can turn our beautiful region into a global hub of climate solutions,” Herzog said. “I believe that the UAE and Israel can lead the way for the entire region, together with our friends and partners.”

Herzog’s quick visit to the United Arab Emirates followed a brief trip to Bahrain, the first by an Israeli president to the island kingdom, centered on the unrealized business potential between the two nations.

President Isaac Herzog (L) meets with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (R) at the Al-Qudaibiya Palace in Manama, Bahrain, December 4, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Upon departing back to Israel on Monday, a member of Herzog’s entourage said both the UAE and Bahrain “want to be part of a regional confederation that all the leaders are talking about.”

This will take a “government effort to move in a direction of regional cooperation with more countries,” the officials explained, in a possible appeal to Israel’s incoming right-wing government.

The government official lamented that there has not been much tourism to Israel from Bahrain, and not enough in the other direction either. He promised that Gulf leaders will visit Israel. “They want to show the fruits of peace to their people.”

There are important mutual interests pushing Israel and the Gulf countries together, said the official. “They look around and what do they see? Everything that Iran touches turns to a wasteland… They watch Iraq with great worry.”

The official added that the relations are “critical” for Israel’s security.

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