Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates have agreed to meet in the near future, the premier’s office said Monday as his government gave initial approval to a historic treaty between the countries.
Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan spoke over the weekend and agreed to meet “soon,” according to a readout of their conversation provided by the Prime Minister’s Office.
The conversation was the first between the two since the agreement to normalize ties between the states was announced on August 13.
The readout did not specify where the meeting would take place, but Netanyahu said that he was looking forward to hosting a senior UAE delegation in Israel.
This would be “a reciprocal visit” following the August 31 trip to Abu Dhabi by an Israeli delegation headed by National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, the prime minister said.
Netanyahu told ministers at Monday’s weekly cabinet meeting that he had spoken to bin Zayed, describing him as a friend.
“I invited him to visit Israel, he invited me to visit Abu Dhabi,” he said.
During the meeting, ministers unanimously voted in favor of bringing the peace treaty for a vote in the Knesset.
The Knesset has scheduled a debate and vote on the “Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel” for Thursday.
The prime minister told the Emirati crown prince that he is convinced that given the peace treaty’s popularity in Israel, it will be approved by the Knesset “without delay.”
A statement carried by the Emirates official news agency said Netanyahu initiated the call and the two discussed “the progression of bilateral relations in view of the peace accord the two countries recently signed.”
It did not mention a meeting or reciprocal visit.
Netanyahu told ministers that the sides discussed cooperation in various areas, including the fight against the coronavirus. “It is already happening and it will happen on a much larger scale. This will greatly help us to overcome the pandemic,” he said.
The prime minister and the crown prince jointly called for the “further consolidation of peace in the Middle East, which will contribute to the stability, security and prosperity of all peoples in the region,” and expressed appreciation to US President Donald Trump for his support to this effort.
During a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we discussed strengthening bilateral ties and examined prospects for peace and the need for stability, cooperation and development in the region.
— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) October 12, 2020
The Abraham Accord reflects a “dramatic change” to Israel’s geopolitical standing, Netanyahu said. “Arab countries want to make peace with us, because they see how we have turned Israel into a powerful nation. They also see how we stand up to Iran, sometimes alone, in front of the whole world. They understand that we can help them in a great many areas. They see that Israel is not only not a burden nor an enemy — it is an essential ally at all times, especially at this time.”
He added that he had no doubt that other Arab and Muslim nations will soon sign peace agreements with Israel as well.
On Sunday, Trump had spoken with the Emirati leader as well and congratulated him “for his leadership in signing the Abraham Accords,” according to a readout provided by the White House. “President Trump called on the Crown Prince to seize this opportunity to urge leaders of other Middle East countries to follow the same path toward advancing peace and prosperity in the region.”
In the very likely scenario that a majority of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers vote in favor of the treaty, it will return to the cabinet for ratification. Once ratified, the agreement enters into force for Israel, but full diplomatic relations between the two countries will not have been established until the UAE ratifies the agreement as well.
Emirati officials have started the process of approving and ratifying the agreement, which was signed by two parties in Washington on September 15, but it is unclear when it will conclude.
According to article 10 of the agreement, the treaty “shall be ratified by both Parties as soon as practicable in conformity with their respective national procedures and will enter into force following the exchange of instruments of ratification.”
Once Abu Dhabi sends a diplomatic note to Jerusalem saying that the process of ratifying the agreement has been completed, the treaty will enter into force for both sides and formal diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE will have been established.
Once both parties have ratified the agreement, the treaty signed on September 15 will be transmitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for registration in the UN Treaty Series, a massive compendium of international treaties.
In parallel, Israeli and Emirati officials are currently negotiating various bilateral agreements, including about the opening of embassies and a visa regime allowing Israelis to visit the UAE.
The UAE-Israel peace treaty is popular among most Israeli lawmakers and thus very likely to be approved in Thursday’s vote. However, it is unclear how the mostly-Arab Joint List party will vote, as many Palestinians view the agreement as a betrayal of the Palestinians.
The Israeli far right is also wary of the accord because in it Jerusalem commits “to working together to realize a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that meets the legitimate needs and aspirations of both people.” While the treaty does not explicitly refer to Palestinian statehood or a two-state solution, it does say Israel will remain committed to “continuing their efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive, realistic and enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
It also refers to the US administration’s peace proposal, which endorses “a realistic two-state solution.”
At the September 15 White House ceremony, Israel and Bahrain signed a “Declaration of Peace” in which both countries “agreed to establish full diplomatic relations,” but no formal treaty has been signed yet.
Jerusalem and Manama have approved a “series of steps initiating this new chapter in their relations,” including the desire to reach bilateral agreements in various fields and the reciprocal opening of embassies.