Israel, UAE Sign Visa Waiver Agreement

Netanyahu says he believes other countries understand that it is 'better to work together' ■ Delegations announce $3 billion dollar fund for regional development

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin an UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, October 20, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin an UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, October 20, 2020.Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

A delegation from the United Arab Emirates landed in Israel on Tuesday to sign agreements, including a mutual visa waiver, representing another step in the normalization of ties between the two countries.

Haaretz Podcast: Why is Israel arming Azerbaijan against Armenia? Listen to Yossi MelmanCredit: Haaretz

The delegation is also signing deals on cooperation in aviation, investment, science and technology, and is accompanied by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House adviser Avi Berkowitz. The UAE delegation is led by Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer.

The visa waiver will allow the citizens of either country to visit the other without needing to be approved in advance.

Addressing the Emirati and U.S. delegations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the excitement about the agreements between the two countries is "enormous." It shows "the potential we're realizing today will benefit not just us, but the entire Middle East," he added, saying that he believes that other governments understand that it is "better to work together as friends."

Speaking after the prime minister, Obaid Humaid Al Tayer said that he is honored to head the first Emirati delegation to Israel, and that conversations will continue and deepen between the two countries after the agreements are signed. He also announced the founding of the "Abraham Fund," a $3 billion, Jerusalem-based project to boost the Middle Eastern economy.

A U.S. Embassy press release on the fund says that it will "will bolster regional trade, enable strategic infrastructure projects, and increase energy security through the provision of reliable access to electricity. The fund also aims to improve agricultural productivity and facilitate reliable and efficient access to clean water in the region."

An Etihad Airways plane carrying a delegation from the UAE lands at Ben Gurion Airport, October 20, 2020.Credit: JACK GUEZ - AFP

Following the signing, Netanyahu met with Al Tayer, UAE Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq Al Mari, Manuchin and Berkowitz.

During a lunch meeting, the Emirati delegation presented Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi with a letter from UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan officially requesting the establishment of an embassy in Israel, in the expectation of Israel doing the same in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE ratified its normalization deal, signed in a White House ceremony last month, on Monday.

Israeli lawmakers endorsed the normalization agreement by a large majority on Thursday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset that he "still believe[d] that the Palestinians will one day sober up."

Netanyahu used his speech to take aim at lawmakers of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, who announced they will oppose the agreement. "You do not want a true peace. You want a mirage of peace where Israel falls apart and disappears," he said.

On top of the agreements with the UAE and Bahrain, Netanyahu added that “we will do this with further nations, strengthen the covenant of moderates.

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