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Top Israeli, UAE officials say new ties will make countries ‘close family’

Israelis should ‘feel at home, feel accepted’ in Abu Dhabi, says head of emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism in video call with Israeli FM chief Alon Ushpiz

Screen shot from a video call between Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi, and Israel's Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, September 17, 2020. (Screen capture)
Screen shot from a video call between Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi, and Israel's Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, September 17, 2020. (Screen capture)

Israeli and Emirati officials are working hard to show that the new normalization agreement signed Tuesday between the two countries marks a new period of closeness and friendship.

In a video released Thursday, two top diplomatic officials from the two countries spoke in glowing terms about becoming “close family,” wished each other well for their respective religious holidays and spoke of the importance of the new alliance.

The video is titled “Building Bridges of Peace.”

It opens with Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz telling his interlocutor, “I can’t imagine something that will be more positive and bring joy to my heart than what we’re doing right now.”

That interlocutor, Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi, replies, “It’s a very special moment, sir. I think it’s a moment for humanity. It’s a moment for all of us that we’ve been waiting for really. All of us have been waiting for this moment, a moment we can go back to our homes and tell our children that the future is going to be brighter.”

The video comes on the heels of the Tuesday signing in the White House of normalization accords between Israel and two Arab states, the UAE and Bahrain, marking only the third and fourth such agreements with Arab nations in Israel’s 72-year history. It follows Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, and is widely seen by Israelis as a major achievement of the Netanyahu government, according to polls.

In the Thursday video, the two officials spoke of the agreement as the start of close ties, and called for Israelis and Emiratis to visit each others’ countries.

The two countries “share a perspective about regional benefits, whether it’s stability or prosperity,” Ushpiz said. What the UAE has done “is courageous not only from the political point of view…it carries a moral weight.”

Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi, in a video call with Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, September 17, 2020. (Screen capture)

Al-Mubarak replied with an invitation to Israelis to visit the UAE and “feel at home” there.

“There was never ill intent between our respective countries,” he said. “We want the people of Israel to feel at home when they come to Abu Dhabi, to feel free, to feel accepted. That’s something we’re going to strive for and we’re going to make it happen. We are going to become close family in the near future. I’m very happy about that.”

He added: “I can’t wait to have my first visit to Israel. I’ve heard so much about it, so many great things. Whether it’s Tel Aviv or Haifa, I really can’t wait to enjoy some of those beautiful beaches that you have down there.”

Al-Mubarak described his country’s Abrahamic Family House, a complex with a mosque, church and synagogue that he called “one of the most important projects spearheaded here by the leadership.”

The Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, UAE. (courtesy of The Higher Committee for Human Fraternity)

It’s “a project of bringing all our faiths closer together, the Abrahamic faiths.”

Ushpiz praised the Gulf state’s “very high standards” and quipped that he would inform the Israeli officials planning Jerusalem’s embassy in Abu Dhabi “that they should adjust themselves to a very high bar of professionalism.”

Ushpiz concluded with a wish of “Shana tova and eid mubarak. We’ll be more than happy to host you here in Israel.”

Al-Mubarak replied: “It’s been a true pleasure, an honor. I would like to wish the people in Israel a happy new year, shana tova. I hope the new year gives you all the joy and happiness that you all deserve, and I hope to see you all very soon in Israel and in Abu Dhabi.”

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