Wednesday, May 25

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid opens an embassy in Abu Dhabi | Israel

Israel’s foreign minister inaugurated the country’s new embassy in Abu Dhabi on the first official Israeli visit to the UAE since the two countries normalized relations last year.

Speaking at the opening ceremony on Tuesday, Yair Lapid appeared to be closing in on other regional adversaries.

“Israel wants peace with its neighbors, with all its neighbors. We’re not going anywhere. The Middle East is our home… We call on all countries in the region to recognize that and come talk to us, ”he said, according to a transcript released by Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates, economic powerhouses in the region, had quietly cooperated for years regarding their shared enemy Iran, but formally signed a diplomatic agreement known as the Abraham Accords in August 2020.

Yair Lapid meets with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
Yair Lapid meets with the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Photograph: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, as well as several other Arab states, was overseen by the Donald Trump administration, which saw it as an important facet of a “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran.

While not complete peace accords, the accords also broke a decades-long taboo on Arab diplomacy that Israel would be isolated in the region until it resolved the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Israeli ministers have visited the UAE before, but the newly appointed Lapid is the first to travel on an official mission, as well as the highest ranking.

While the trip has been widely seen as the first opportunity for Israel’s new government to make diplomatic inroads, Lapid also recognized former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the “architect” of the accords, saying: “This moment is yours, not less than ours. “

Netanyahu had tried to use diplomatic success to increase his chances of re-election, but after 12 years in office he was toppled by a partisan coalition led by the nationalist Naftali Bennett last month.

Lapid, a former centrist TV host who tenaciously forged the new coalition, made clear that the new government seeks to break away from Netanyahu-era foreign policy priorities, saying earlier this week that the previous government had done “a terrible bet”. focusing only on ties with Republicans in Washington.

During his two-day visit, Lapid is also due to inaugurate a consulate in Dubai and sign a bilateral economic cooperation agreement, in addition to trade agreements already believed to exceed $ 354 million.

Along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan they have also cultivated new ties with Israel. Critics warned that Trump’s blessing would be viewed by the ruling elites of these states, who no longer see the Palestinian issue as a pressing concern, as “a green light”To apply repressive policies at home.

Joe Biden has voiced his support for normalizing relations, but told outgoing Israel President Reuven Rivlin during the head of state’s visit to Washington this week that “it is not a substitute for involvement in the problems between Israelis and Palestinians that must be resolved. ” .

Agencies contributed to this report

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