Rivlin Lauds ‘Brave Leadership,’ Formally Invites UAE Crown Prince to Jerusalem

Meanwhile, Netanyahu says Israel is preparing for direct flights to Dubai, Abu Dhabi over Saudi airspace

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This collage shows Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (L) in 2019 and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (R) in 2019.
This collage shows Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (L) in 2019 and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (R) in 2019.Credit: Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS // Mark Neyman/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin formally invited the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, to Israel for a state visit on Monday.

PODCAST: Inside Israel's no-change, no-cost peace deal with the UAECredit: Haaretz

"In my name and in the name of the people of Israel, I take this opportunity to address in his honor an invitation to visit Israel and Jerusalem, and be our honored guest," a letter sent to the Emirati royal and made public by the President's Office said.

The move follows the announcement of the two countries beginning a process of normalizing relations, according to an agreement “that, God willing, will be signed soon under your leadership and in full cooperating with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," Rivlin's letter said, calling the deal "a strategic milestone.”

The president said the move would “build trust among the peoples of the region and promote understanding between us all... Such trust, as you have shown with your brave, exalted move, will take our region forward and bring prosperity and stability.”

“I have no doubt that future generations will appreciate the way in which you, through brave and wise leadership, reignited dialogue on peace, trust… and a promising future,” Rivlin added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel was preparing for direct flights to the United Arab Emirates. "We are currently working on enabling direct flights, over Saudi Arabia, between Tel Aviv and Dubai and Abu Dhabi," Netanyahu told reporters while on a visit to Ben Gurion international airport, estimating flight time at "about three hours, just like to Rome."

Saudi Arabia currently does not allow Israeli companies to fly in its airspace, but since 2018 allows Air India to fly from Delhi to Tel Aviv over its territory – a move that was seen as a sign of thawing ties.

The UAE will be the third Arab country to recognize the State of Israel, perhaps setting a precedent for others to follow suit. In a CNBC interview over the weekend, Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said normalized relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia were "an inevitability."

On Sunday, the UAE also opened telephone lines to Israel, a link inaugurated in a conversation between the two countries' foreign ministers.

Officials from both countries have started to work on the actual wording of the agreement, although an Israeli delegation to the Emirates has been delayed following a dispute between different branches of the Israeli executive.

Palestinian protesters burn a banner showing Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed during a protest against the UAE's deal with Israel near the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, August 14, 2020.Credit: Mahmoud Illean,AP

The deal, brokered by the Trump administration, primarily sees Israel agree not to annex parts of the West Bank – despite a plan touted by Netanyahu for the last few months – in return for peace. It is unprecedented, but has attracted criticism from Palestinians and their supporters, both governmental and non-governmental, as well as parts of the Israeli right, which disavowed the idea of losing the West Bank.

In practice, both countries are also looking at some kind of economic fallout from closer relations, with observers expecting a slew of private and public partnerships to be signed on the sidelines of the peace talks.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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