Israeli President’s visit highlights a new reality for the Middle East

Israeli President Isaac Herzog arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, marking the first-ever official visit by an Israeli president to the Gulf state.

Arrived at the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the President’s two-day visit will include meetings with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, senior government officials and members of the growing Jewish community in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

While the scheduled meeting between Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and President Herzog will be their first face-to-face meeting, it is not the first time the two leaders have spoken to each other.

Since taking office as president, Herzog and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed have spoken out on several occasions; During the first phone call between the two leaders, President Herzog congratulated His Highness on the Golden Jubilee of the United Arab Emirates, the two leaders spoke again when Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed called to present his condolences over the passing of Herzog’s mother and, more recently, Israeli President Herzog called on Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed to express his support for the UAE and condemn the recent Houthi terrorist attacks on Abu Dhabi.

Herzog’s visit articulates the continued deepening of bilateral relations between the two countries and follows several other milestones, including a first visit by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a visit by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, a trade delegation headed by a minister from the United Arab Emirates in Tel Aviv, and the opening of the respective diplomatic missions.

Celebrating nearly a year and a half of diplomatic relations, President Herzog will launch Israel’s National Day at Expo 2020 Dubai and is one of more than 26 heads of state to visit the global site.

Commercial boost

While significant diplomatic efforts are being made at the state level, a visa waiver has already been signed to encourage tourism, and a free trade agreement is being finalized between the two countries aimed at strengthening the commercial activity and to attract more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which have been largely left out in the current commercial flow.

According to data from the Israel Export Institute, trade between the two countries stood at $1 billion at the end of the year, and officials expect bilateral trade to triple over the course of the year. coming year, reaching $3 billion by 2023.

Other major projects include a joint space mission which includes cooperation on scientific research, space exploration and knowledge transfer, joint defense projects which will develop counter-drone systems, as well as agreements in the fields health, education, agriculture, technology and tourism. .

Increase tourism

More than 200,000 Israeli tourists have already visited the UAE, and Israel’s Ambassador to the UAE, Amir Hayek, said the Jewish state is ready and waiting to welcome visitors from the UAE.

UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed al Khaja and his Israeli counterpart Amir Hayek have been working closely since Hayek’s appointment by Israeli FM Yair Lapid. Most recently, they helped secure a multimillion-dollar R&D pool fund that was approved by Israel’s cabinet early in the new year.

Designed to encourage collaboration in the technology and innovation sectors, the fund will only be accessible to joint projects, partnerships and strategies.

While the first year of the Abraham Accords included building the foundations, discovering the other side and exploring potential business opportunities in the newly opened market, the second year will focus on joint projects, mutual investments and other grassroots initiatives that will benefit both companies.

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