Israeli president’s historic visit to the UAE
Israel’s president spoke at Dubai’s Expo 2020 world fair on Monday on the first presidential visit to the United Arab Emirates, despite the Gulf state overnight saying it had intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthis.
The presidency in Israel is a largely ceremonial post. During Prime Minister Bennett’s visit last month, international talks on Iran’s nuclear programme were on the agenda.
The Palestinian group Hamas, which opposes countries normalising ties with Israel, said such visits “encourage the occupation to continue escalating its aggression against our Palestinian people and denial of their rights”.
En route to the UAE President Herzog’s plane flew over Saudi Arabia, which Herzog said was “a very moving moment”. Riyadh has not yet followed its Gulf neighbours in normalising ties with Israel, but Israeli officials express hope this will happen.
“The Abraham Accords should be continued and more nations should join us,” Herzog said.
The UAE, along with Bahrain, signed the US-brokered normalisation agreements with Israel at the White House in September 2020, pacts that have angered the Palestinians.
President Herzog and his wife Michal landed in Abu Dhabi on Sunday morning, overflying Saudi Arabia en route. They were greeted and welcomed by the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan. The Israeli president was due to embark on a full programme of working meetings with UAE ministers and officials.
The Israeli president’s visit is part of the co-operation agreed in the Abraham Accords, signed in August 2020 between Israel and the UAE and Israel and Bahrain. But there has always been the expectation that more Arab states would want peace agreements with Israel.
Houthi attack intercepted during visit
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile in the third such incident this month, according to authorities, while the Israeli President was in the country on a historic visit.
Israel offers support
It is in Israel’s interest to counter Iran in the Gulf. This was a big motive for the Abraham Accords. It is therefore unsurprising that Israel is interested in directly countering the Iran-backed Houthis by supporting the UAE militarily. Israel has offered security and intelligence support to the United Arab Emirates against further drone attacks after a deadly strike by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, according to a letter released on Tuesday by Israel’s leader.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday offered Israel’s “security and intelligence support” to the United Arab Emirates following a missile and drone attack that killed three people in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi.
In a statement, Bennett condemned the attack, claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. “I strongly condemn the terrorist attacks in Abu Dhabi carried out by the Iranian-backed Houthis and send condolences to the families of the innocent victims,” Bennett said.
“Israel stands with the UAE. I stand with [Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Zayed. The world should stand against terror.”
In a letter to bin Zayed, Bennett said Jerusalem was committed to working with Abu Dhabi “in the ongoing battle against extremist forces in the region, and we will continue to partner with you to defeat our common enemies.”
He said he had “ordered the Israeli security establishment to provide their counterparts in the UAE with any assistance” that could help to protect against future attacks.
The UAE vowed reprisals after the Houthi attack on Monday triggered a fuel tank blast that killed the three victims.
The United Arab Emirates is part of a Saudi-led military coalition that supports Yemen’s government against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have repeatedly targeted Saudi Arabia with cross-border strikes.