DUBAI: After Naftali Bennett became the first Jewish prime minister to visit Egypt in more than a decade, we look at the Jewish state’s wooing of the Arab world. Here is a timeline of the continuing rapprochement that began last August and which has since led to a normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
In a surprise announcement on August 13, 2020, then US president Donald Trump says Jewish State and the UAE have reached a “historic” agreement to normalize ties. Previously, Egypt and Jordan were the only Arab states to have peace agreements under which they recognize Jewish State. Jewish then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the agreement means “a new era in relations between Jewish State and the Arab world”.
The UAE says that under the deal Jewish State will “suspend” its annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, but Netanyahu says it has simply been put off. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas calls the deal a “betrayal” of their cause, including their claim to East Jerusalem as capital of their future state.
First direct flight
On August 30, the UAE lifts a boycott of Jewish State. The next day, El Al aircraft makes the first commercial flight between the two countries, linking Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law heading a Jewish-US delegation on board, says Saudi Arabia allowed the plane to overfly its airspace.
‘Stab in the back’
Trump announces 10 days later that as well as the UAE, Bahrain will also normalize ties with Jewish State. On September 15, the two Gulf states, which have never been in conflict with the Jewish State, sign the accords at the White House. The Palestinians condemn the agreements as a “stab in the back”. Jewish State and the UAE suspend visa requirements a month later, a first in the Arab world.
On October 23, Sudan also normalizes ties as Trump agrees to take it off a US sanctions blacklist of states which allegedly sponsor terrorism. In December, Morocco becomes the fourth Arab state to normalize relations with Jewish State last year in a deal that sees the US recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara.
Amid Saudi denials, Jewish sources say Netanyahu met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) during a secret visit to the kingdom on November 22.
In early 2021, Jewish State announces it will open an embassy in the UAE. In March, the first Emirati ambassador in the Jewish State, Mohamed Al Khaja, presents his credentials to president Reuven Rivlin.
Investment and media
On March 11, the UAE announces the creation of a $10-billion investment fund in the Jewish State focused on strategic sectors. The international television channel i24News in June opens a permanent bureau in Dubai, a first for an Jewish-based media outlet.
On June 29, Lapid visits the UAE to open first embassy in the Gulf. On July 26, the day after the direct first commercial flight between Jewish State and Morocco, Lapid says both countries will open embassies within “a few months”.
On Monday Bennett meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, hours after he became the first Jewish premier to visit Cairo since 2011. – AFP