UAE launches official Hebrew-language news service

Official media outlet says it will provide information about progress in bilateral relations with Israel in wake of normalization

Tourists on a yacht as they pass a traditional dhow serving a dinner cruise, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, January 12, 2021 (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Tourists on a yacht as they pass a traditional dhow serving a dinner cruise, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, January 12, 2021 (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

The official news agency of the United Arab Emirates launched a Hebrew-language news service Tuesday that will focus on information relating to the normalization of ties between the countries.

The Emirates News Agency (WAM) said in a statement that the service will “provide comprehensive media content in Hebrew, including news and written and audio-visual reports.”

Updates will be posted to the news site and on the agency’s social media accounts.

WAM CEO Mohammed Jalal Al Rayssi said that the service will provide content on the bilateral ties between Israel and the UAE following the signing in September 2020 of a normalization deal.

The first articles published on WAM’s Hebrew webpage dealt primarily with regional financial and UAE diplomatic news.

With the addition of Hebrew to its services, the Abu Dhabi-based WAM now has services in 19 languages, the statement noted.

The UAE last year agreed to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel under the so-called Abraham Accords, in a pact brokered by the United States. Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan later normalized ties with Israel 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.

Since then the two countries have each appointed ambassadors, with Israel already opening an embassy at a temporary location in Abu Dhabi. Last month Ambassador Eitan Na’eh held the embassy’s the first-ever Seder in the UAE on the first night of Passover.

Earlier in the month the UAE ambassador to Israel, Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah, completed a short preliminary visit to Israel during which he met with the country’s top leadership and scouted out suitable locations for the embassy and his home. Al Khajah has a Twitter account where he posts messages in English and Hebrew.

During his five days in the country, Al Khajah presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin. He also met with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told him: “We are changing the Middle East, we are changing the world.”

Al Khajah is slated to return at a later date on a more permanent basis.

After scheduled flights were established between Tel Aviv and the UAE, the country quickly became a popular tourist destination, with tens of thousands of Israeli visitors.

Netanyahu had planned to travel to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain ahead of the March 23 elections in Israel, in what would have been his first official visit since the establishment of official diplomatic relations with the two countries last year.

The trip had at first been tentatively scheduled for early January, and then for later in that month, but appeared to be pushed off by COVID-related considerations, and a disagreement with Jordan over the premier crossing its airspace.

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