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Netanyahu meets with first UAE envoy: ‘We’re changing the region’

PM holds first meeting with Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah after the latter’s arrival in Israel Monday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with the UAE's new ambassador to Israel Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah at his Jerusalem office on March 2, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with the UAE's new ambassador to Israel Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah at his Jerusalem office on March 2, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday held his first meeting with the new Emirati ambassador to Israel, Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah, following the normalization agreement between the Jewish state and United Arab Emirates.

“We are changing the Middle East, we are changing the world,” Netanyahu told Al Khajah, according to a statement from his office.

The two discussed “the potential in developing joint regional and bilateral projects in a broad range of fields,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The meeting was also attended by Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and other senior officials.

There was no immediate statement from Al Khajah on the meeting.

The UAE’s first ambassador to Israel, Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah, presents his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem on March 1, 2021. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Al Khajah arrived Monday in Israel and presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin. He also met with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

The Emirati envoy will spend several days in the country, scouting out suitable locations for the embassy and his home. He will then return at a later date on a more permanent basis.

The UAE was the first country to agree to establish full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state under the Abraham Accords, a pact brokered by former US president Donald Trump.

Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have normalized ties as well.

The agreements broke with the longstanding Arab idea that there should be no normalization with Israel until it reaches a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.

Israel opened its UAE embassy in January, with veteran diplomat Eitan Naeh heading the Abu Dhabi mission.

Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah, the UAE’s first ambassador to Israel (right), meets in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 23, 2021 with Eitan Naeh, Head of Mission of the State of Israel to the UAE (via Twitter)

Although the exchange of embassies has progressed, a visa waiver agreement for travelers between Israel and the UAE has been held up due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu postponed what would have been his first official visit to the UAE since the establishment of official diplomatic relations, and no future date for the visit has yet been announced. The Prime Minister’s Office said at the time that the decision to postpone the trip indefinitely was made due to the closing down of air travel to and from Israel, as part of a national lockdown aimed at preventing coronavirus carriers arriving from abroad.

AFP contributed to this report.

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