JERUSALEM - A senior delegation from the United Arab Emirates arrived in Israel for the first official visit since the two countries signed a peace agreement last month. They signed a series of bilateral agreements, including a visa waiver agreement.
A very happy Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the UAE delegation, saying “today we are making history.”
"The enthusiasm for this peace agreement among our people is enormous. It’s real, it’s broad, it’s deep, and it reflects the potential that is realized today," said Netanyahu.
One of the agreements says that Israelis will not need visas to visit the UAE, and Emiratis can visit Israel freely as well. With direct flights expected to start by January, the Israeli tourist industry, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, hopes for 250,000 Emiratis to visit a year. Some Israeli tour companies are already marketing trips to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The two also inaugurated a three-billion dollar trilateral fund among Israel, the UAE and the US to encourage investment.
For Netanyahu, the UAE’s short delegation visit was a welcome break from his electoral woes. His popularity has plummeted amid criticism of his handling of the pandemic, and his trial on several charge of corruption is set to start in January.
President Trump also hopes the accord, which was signed last month in Washington, will give him an electoral boost. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the accords could transform the Middle East.
"The Abraham Accords established direct economic ties between two of the Middle East’s most thriving and advanced economies," said Mnuchin. "These ties create a tremendous foundation for economic growth, opportunity, innovation and prosperity."
For the UAE, Israel offers high tech innovation and business opportunities. UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Huamid Al Tayer said both countries offer opportunities."The UAE will continue to be a regional leader in terms of economic reform, openness in international trade, political stability and peacemaking," said Al Tayer.
"The economic cooperation in finance and investment will be realized after signing today the agreement for the promotion and protection of investment.
Because of COVID-19, the delegation did not leave the area of the airport. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu invited them back for a sightseeing trip when the pandemic passes.