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UAE ratifies mutual visa exemption agreement with Israel

Deal for visa-free travel receives final okay from Abu Dhabi’s cabinet; Israeli ministers must now do same for it to go into effect

El Al's airliner, carrying a US-Israeli delegation to the UAE, landing on the tarmac at the Abu Dhabi airport, August 31, 2020. (Karim SAHIB / AFP)
El Al's airliner, carrying a US-Israeli delegation to the UAE, landing on the tarmac at the Abu Dhabi airport, August 31, 2020. (Karim SAHIB / AFP)

The United Arab Emirates on Sunday gave its final okay to an agreement with Israel that will exempt tourists from both countries from visa requirements when visiting the other country.

“The cabinet ratified a number of agreements between the government of the UAE and a number of friendly countries, including the ratification of the agreement between the UAE and the State of Israel regarding mutual exemption from entry visa requirements,” UAE’s state news agency WAM said in a statement.

The agreement still must be ratified by the Israeli cabinet and Knesset before it enters into force.

The Israel-UAE visa exemption agreement will mean that citizens from both countries will be allowed to enter each other’s countries without having to go through the hassle of applying for a visa first.

The deal will be the first such arrangement between the Jewish state and an Arab country. Notably, even Israel’s closest ally, the United States, has so far refused to sign a visa exemption agreement with the Jewish state.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer (R) at Ben Gurion Airport, October 20, 2020 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The treaty was signed last month during high-level meetings and a ceremony outside Tel Aviv attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and two senior UAE ministers — part of the first high-level delegation from the Gulf nation to visit Israel.

During the welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport where the treaty was signed, the US, Israel and the UAE also announced the creation of a trilateral fund seeking to foster regional cooperation and prosperity. The $3 billion Abraham Fund will be based in Jerusalem.

After that signing, the Foreign Ministry said the UAE passed along a message that it wished to facilitate the reciprocal opening of embassies in Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi “as soon as possible.”

The Knesset last month approved Israel’s normalization deal with the UAE by an overwhelming majority, all but ensuring that it will be ratified in the near future.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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