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Tel Aviv City Hall is lit up with the flags of the UAE. Picture courtesy of Oded Balilty (AP).

Israel hoping momentum of UAE deal will continue to Washington

Israel hopes to hold a signing ceremony in Washington for its normalisation deal with the United Arab Emirates by mid-September, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet said on Sunday.

The date for such an event could be decided by senior aides to Netanyahu and to U.S. President Donald Trump when those officials fly to Abu Dhabi on Monday for talks, Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis told public broadcaster Kan.

Top Trump adviser Jared Kushner and the other U.S. delegates were due in Israel on Sunday to prepare for the UAE mission.

“This (normalisation) agreement is expected to be signed in the month of September in the city of Washington,” Akunis said. “That is meant to be one of the outcomes of the talks in the next 24 hours in the Emirates – setting a date for the signing.”

Akunis added that the Netanyahu government hopes the ceremony will take place “before our Rosh Hashanah” or Jewish new year, which is on Sept. 18.

Israel and the UAE announced on Aug. 13 that they would normalise diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by Trump. The agreement reshapes the Middle East order, from the Palestinian issue to relations with Iran.

On Saturday, the Gulf power announced it was scrapping its economic boycott against Israel, allowing trade and financial agreements between the countries.

Officials from the two countries have said they are looking at cooperation in defence, medicine, agriculture, tourism and technology.

“We are talking about commercial deals worth $500 million in the initial stages, and this will keep rising all the time,” Akunis said.

Such bilateral deals, he said, will give rise to “trilateral investments, in other words, in additional projects with other countries in the region”. He did not name these countries.

The U.S. and Israeli delegations are due to travel together to Abu Dhabi on an El Al Israel Airlines Ltd plane, Israel’s first direct flight between Tel Aviv and the UAE capital.

El Al released pictures of the Boeing 737-900 jet that will take the delegates. The word “peace” in English, Hebrew and Arabic is inscribed on the exterior above the cockpit windows for the occasion.

Previously the president of the United Arab Emirates scrapped an economic boycott against Israel, allowing trade and financial agreements between the countries in another key step towards normal ties, the UAE’s state news agency reported on Saturday.

Israel and the UAE said on Aug. 13 they would normalise diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump that reshapes the order of Middle East politics from the Palestinian issue to the fight against Iran.

President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued a decree abolishing a boycott law as part of “the UAE’s efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel, leading to bilateral relations by stimulating economic growth and promoting technological innovation,” the WAM news agency said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said the UAE had taken “an important step towards peace, which will yield substantial economic and commercial achievements for both people while strengthening the stability in the region.”

The announcement came as Israeli flag carrier El Al Israel Airlines Ltd (ELAL.TA) prepared to operate the country’s first direct flight between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi.

An Israeli government delegation and top aides to Trump, including his senior adviser Jared Kushner, are due to travel on the flight on Aug. 31, a U.S. official said.

Before the Aug. 13 deal can be officially signed, details must be agreed on issues such as the opening of embassies, trade and travel links.

Israel’s Channel 13 TV said bilateral trade could initially be worth $4 billion a year, a figure it said could soon be tripled or quadrupled. Government officials did not immediately confirm that estimate.

Israeli Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster said Israel was working on potential joint projects that could help improve the oil-rich Gulf nation’s food security, such as water desalination and crop cultivation in the desert.

“With their money and our experience, we could go a long way,” he told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM in an interview on Friday.

Officials from the two countries recently said they were looking at cooperation in defence, medicine, tourism and technology.

The decree announced on Saturday means UAE citizens and businesses will be free to do business with Israel.

The two countries do not yet have official air links, and it was unclear whether Monday’s El Al flight would be able to fly over Saudi Arabia – which has no official ties with Israel – to cut down on flight time.

In May, an Etihad Airways plane flew from the UAE to Tel Aviv to deliver supplies to the Palestinians to help fight coronavirus, marking the first known flight by an UAE carrier to Israel.

Source: Reuters

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