After almost half-a-century

UAE formally abolishes Israel boycott law ahead of delegation’s arrival

Trade with Israelis and of Israeli goods now permitted; teams due in Abu Dhabi on Monday for talks on aviation, tourism, trade, finance, health, energy and defense

Women wearing face masks against the coronavirus walk past United Arab Emirates and Israeli flags at the Peace Bridge in Netanya, Israel, August 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Women wearing face masks against the coronavirus walk past United Arab Emirates and Israeli flags at the Peace Bridge in Netanya, Israel, August 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The president of the United Arab Emirates on Saturday issued a decree abolishing a law boycotting Israel and allowing trade and financial agreements between the two nations, two days before a delegation from Jerusalem was due to arrive in Abu Dhabi in the wake of August 13’s normalization agreement.

The state-run WAM news agency said the move formally ending the boycott came on the orders of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the Emirates’ leader.

WAM said the new decree allows Israelis and Israeli firms to do business in the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. It also allows for the purchase and trade of Israeli goods.

“The decree of the new law comes within the UAE’s efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel,” WAM said. It lays out “a roadmap toward launching joint cooperation, leading to bilateral relations by stimulating economic growth and promoting technological innovation.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the move as “an important step in promoting prosperity and peace in the region.”

In this 2013 file photo, President of the United Arab Emirates Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrives to meet Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in Windsor in England (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, pool)

Already, some Israeli firms had signed deals with Emirati counterparts. But the repeal of the law widens the likelihood of other joint ventures, such as in aviation, banking, and finance.

The decree formally eliminates a 1972 law on the UAE’s books since just after the country’s formation. That law mirrored the widely held stance by Arab nations at that time that recognition of Israel would only come after the Palestinians had an independent state of their own.

The announcement came just ahead of the first commercial flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, scheduled for Monday, which will carry American and Israeli delegations to Abu Dhabi after the two countries agreed to normalize relations.

The flight, an Israeli El Al airliner, will carry a US delegation headed by US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, as well as special envoy for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the Israeli delegation aboard the August 31 flight would be led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat. Also taking part would be the head of the Civil Aviation Authority and the directors of the PMO, the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry.

According to Army Radio, a preparatory team from Israel arrived in the UAE on Friday ahead of the formal delegation.

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the talks in Abu Dhabi would focus on ways to promote collaborations in fields including aviation, tourism, trade, finance, health, energy and defense.

US President Donald Trump, accompanied by (From left), US special envoy for Iran Brian Hook, Avraham Berkowitz, Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Trump’s White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, applauding in the Oval Office at the White House, August 12, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Netanyahu said last week the talks would “advance peace and normalization” with the UAE.

“This is a historic agreement,” Netanyahu said. “It will spur growth. It will help bring general economic growth, especially during the coronavirus era.”

Israel and the UAE announced on August 13 that they were establishing full diplomatic relations, in a US-brokered deal that also required Israel to suspend its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

The UAE is just the third Arab country to agree to official relations with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan. Israeli and American officials have expressed hope that other Gulf Arab countries will soon follow suit, with relations based on mutual commercial and security interests, and their shared enmity toward Iran.

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