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In inaugurating the embassy in the UAE, Israel tells the region: ‘We are here to stay’

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DUBAI – Israel’s new foreign minister inaugurated his embassy in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday and offered an olive branch to other former adversaries, saying: “We are here to stay.”

Yair Lapid’s two-day visit is the first to the Gulf state by an Israeli cabinet minister since the countries forged ties last year. He was scheduled to sign a bilateral agreement on economic cooperation and open an Israeli consulate in Dubai on Wednesday.

The trip is also an opportunity for the two-week Israeli government of Naftali Bennett, a nationalist who heads an unlikely coalition between partisans, to make diplomatic inroads despite prolonged talks with the Palestinians.

“Israel wants peace with its neighbors, with all its neighbors. We’re not going anywhere. The Middle East is our home, ”Lapid said during the opening ceremony at the Abu Dhabi high-rise office that serves as a temporary embassy.

“We are here to stay. We call on all the countries in the region to recognize that and come talk to us,” he said.

United by shared concerns about Iran and hopes for trade gains, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel last year under the so-called “Abraham Accords” drawn up by then-US President Donald Trump. Since then, Sudan and Morocco have also moved to establish ties with Israel.

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The regional rapprochement was deplored by the Palestinians, who want their demands for a state free from Israeli occupation to be addressed first.

President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the Abrahamic Accords as “an illusion” and claimed that the colonial powers had “implanted Israel as a foreign body in this region to fragment it and keep it weak,” according to a Tuesday report from the US official service. Palestinian news WAFA.

Tuesday’s deal will be the twelfth between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, said Lior Haiat, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Lapid will also visit the site of Expo 2020 Dubai, a world fair opening in October where Israel has built a pavilion.

Lapid’s plane traveled through Saudi airspace. Riyadh, although it had not normalized relations with Israel, last year opened its skies to flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

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The UAE formally opened its embassy in Israel, temporarily located on the Tel Aviv stock exchange, with little fanfare this month.

The Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi still has only three diplomats and a head of mission, Eitan Na’eh, who has yet to be confirmed as titular ambassador. The consulate in Dubai is also in temporary premises.

Lapid was conciliatory with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose attempts to organize a trip to the UAE while in office were thwarted by COVID-19 restrictions and who has tried to characterize his removal by Bennett as illegitimate.

Thanking Netanyahu as “the architect of the Abrahamic Accords,” Lapid said: “This moment is yours, no less than ours.” (Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Dan Williams; Additional reporting by Nidal Al-Mughrabi ‘Written by Lisa Barrington; Edited by Clarence Fernandez, John Stonestreet, Nick Macfie, William Maclean)

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