Diplomacy, trade and Iran focus of Lapid's 'historic' visit to the Emirates

The Israeli Foreign Minister begins two-day visit to Gulf Country. On the agenda the inauguration of the embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai. Economic relations have been strengthened that not even the war in Gaza has dented. Satisfaction of the Jewish community that pushes for "further exchanges".

Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The two-day visit of the head of Israeli diplomacy Yair Lapid to the United Arab Emirates (Eau) opens today, the first time of a high-level minister of the Jewish state in a Gulf nation.

His visit comes just under a year after the establishment of official relations between the two countries and a month after the bloody war in Gaza, a wound still open for the Palestinian people with hundreds of victims, including children.

Among the highlights of the trip, defined by Lapid himself as "historic", the inauguration of the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi and the opening of the consulate in Dubai. The Emirates, along with Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco normalized their relations with Israel last year, under aegis of former US President Donald Trump and then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to strengthen relations with the Arab world in an anti-Iranian key.

 The visit to Abu Dhabi was supposed to be the stage for the former prime minister’s triumph, but the coronavirus pandemic and the opposition coalition that excluded him after 12 years from the government made the event impossible.

The Israeli Foreign minister will be received by his Emirati counterpart and Minister for International Cooperation Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan. In recent weeks, the two had a telephone conversation, at the end of which Lapid said he wanted to work to "build warm and special relations" between the two nations "for the benefit of our peoples and of the whole Middle East".

In addition to the inauguration of the diplomatic representations, Lapid will also visit the Israeli stand at the Dubai Expo 2020, an 8.2-billion-dollar event scheduled last year but postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The inauguration is scheduled for October and the presence of the Jewish state was planned even before the normalization of diplomatic relations. In the phase of organizing and promoting the event, the Emirates had welcomed two Israeli ministers, of Transport Israel Katz and of Sport Miri Regev.

Analysts and experts point out that not even the war in Gaza and its 267 dead have tarnished the new relations between Israel and (part of) the Arab world.

Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a scholar of international politics based in Dubai, stresses that the visit is a signal that the storm has been overcome "without repercussions".

 "Bilateral relations - he adds - have passed the first test and show how irreversible [the process] is." The Emirates, he explains, follow two lines: the path of normalization and support for the Palestinians for their own state.

Since the signing of the so-called "Abrahamic Agreements" there has been a flowering of the economic partnership, with the signing of a series of commercial agreements in different sectors including health, artificial intelligence, defense and travel.

In April, the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund, Mubadala Investment, signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase the stake in an Israeli natural gas field worth 1.1 billion dollars; if it goes through, it will be the largest reached so far between the two countries.

Added to this are direct air connections, although today Israel advises against travel to the Emirates precisely due to the increase in cases of the new coronavirus.

According to Karen Young, director of the Economy and Energy Program at the Middle East Institute, the total value of investments from the UAE to Israel reached $ 80 million between September 2020 and March 2021. In the same period, the inflow of capital from Israel in the Emirates was just under $ 25 million.

Lapid's visit is also welcomed by the Jewish community in the Emirates. "We are honored - underlines in a note the chief rabbi Yehuda Sarna - to welcome the foreign minister Lapid" in the context of a constant "growth" of relations between UAE and Israel. "We hope - adds Rabbi Elie Abadie - that the visit of the Foreign Minister is a precursor for further religious, commercial and cultural exchanges and opportunities between our two nations".