Israeli President Announces First UAE Visit; Lapid Teases Saudi, Indonesian Ties

President Herzog is due to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed next week

Jonathan Lis
Reuters
Israel's President Isaac Herzog at the inauguration of the Emirati embassy, alongside the UAE ambassador to Israel, last year.
Israel's President Isaac Herzog at the inauguration of the Emirati embassy, alongside the UAE ambassador to Israel, last year.Credit: Moti Milrod
Jonathan Lis
Reuters

Israeli President Isaac Herzog will fly to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday in the first-ever presidential visit to the Gulf state, his office announced on Tuesday, lauding "bonds of friendships" between the two countries.

Herzog is due to meet the crown prince along with senior government officials and members of the Jewish community.

“This important visit comes as the Israeli and Emirati nations are busy laying the foundations of a new shared future," Herzog said ahead of his departure, just over a year since normalization of bilateral ties.

Emphasizing his wish to expand the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords, Herzog added: "I believe our bold new partnership will transform the Middle East and inspire the whole region.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaking Tuesday on Army Radio, said that Israel hopes to "expand the Abraham Accords to additional countries" beyond the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, but said no agreement is imminent.

"If you're asking me what the important countries that we're looking at are, Indonesia is one of them, Saudi Arabia of course, but these things take time," he said.

Herzog's two-day visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai will include meetings with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the UAE’s foreign affairs minister. During the trip, President Herzog will open Israel’s national day at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest two sites, and Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, have conditioned any eventual normalization with Israel on the creation of a Palestinian state on territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.

Despite the absence of official ties, Saudi Arabia agreed in 2020 to allow Israel-UAE flights to cross its territory. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's El Al Israel Airlines plane flew across Saudi airspace when he visited Abu Dhabi last month.

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