Israel’s foreign minister has inaugurated the country’s new embassy in Abu Dhabi in the first official Israeli visit to the United Arab Emirates since the two countries normalised relations last year.
Speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Yair Lapid appeared to reach out to other regional adversaries.
”以色列 wants peace with its neighbours – with all its neighbours. We aren’t going anywhere. The Middle East is our home … We call on all the countries of the region to recognise that, and to come talk to us,“ 他说, according to a transcript released by the Israeli foreign ministry.
Israel and the UAE – economic powerhouses in the region – had quietly cooperated for years regarding their shared foe, Iran, but formally signed a diplomatic agreement known as the Abraham Accords in August 2020.
The normalisation of relations between 以色列 and the UAE, as well as several other Arab states, was overseen by Donald Trump’s administration, which saw it as an important facet of a “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran.
While not full peace agreements, the deals also broke a decades-old taboo in Arab diplomacy that Israel would be isolated in the region until it resolved the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
Israeli ministers have previously visited the UAE, but newly appointed Lapid is the first to travel on an official mission, as well as the most senior.
While the trip has been widely viewed as the first opportunity for Israel’s new government to make diplomatic inroads, Lapid also acknowledged the former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “architect” of the accords, 说: “This moment is his, no less than it is ours.”
Netanyahu had tried to use the diplomatic success to boost his chances of re-election, but after 12 years in office he was ousted by a cross-party coalition headed by the nationalist Naftali Bennett last month.
Lapid, a centrist former television presenter who tenaciously hammered together the new coalition, has made it clear the new government seeks to break from the foreign policy priorities of the Netanyahu era, saying earlier this week that the previous government had taken “a terrible gamble” by 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 agreement on economic cooperation, which comes on top of trade deals already believed to have exceeded $354m (£255m).
Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have also cultivated new ties with Israel. Critics warned that Trump’s blessing would be viewed by these states’ ruling elites – which no longer see the Palestinian issue as a pressing concern – as “a green light” to pursue repressive policies at home.
Joe Biden has expressed support for the normalisation of relations, but told Israel’s outgoing president, Reuven Rivlin, during the head of state’s visit to Washington this week that it was “not a substitute for engaging on the issues between Israelis and Palestinians that need to be resolved”.
Agencies contributed to this report