The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday became the first Gulf state to open an embassy in Israel.
At a flag-raising ceremony attended by Israel’s president, the new UAE envoy hailed the trade and investment opportunities that closer ties will bring, according to Reuters.
Brought together by shared unease about Iran, the UAE and Bahrain normalised relations with Israel last year under the Abraham Accords crafted by the administration of then-US president Donald Trump. Sudan and Morocco have since also established ties with the Jewish state.
The opening of the UAE embassy, which is temporarily situated in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, followed the inauguration of Israel’s embassy in Abu Dhabi last month.
“Since the normalisation of ties, we have seen for the first time discussions on trade and investment opportunities,” UAE ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja said. “We signed major agreements across various fields, including economy, air travel, technology and culture.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog called the opening of the embassy, “an important milestone in our journey towards future peace, prosperity, and security for the Middle East”.
He said, “Seeing the Emirati flag flying proudly in Tel Aviv might have seemed like a far-fetched dream a year ago, but in many ways nothing could be more natural and normal.”
In the UAE last month to inaugurate Israel’s temporary embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said bilateral trade since normalisation exceeded US$675 million and he expected many more deals to come.
The regional rapprochement has been deplored by the Palestinians, who want their demands for statehood free of Israeli occupation addressed first.
The UAE has said last year’s US-brokered accords, which challenged a decades-old allegiance to Palestinian ambitions as a major driver of Arab policy, would ultimately benefit the Palestinians.