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‘Welcome to Israel’: First UAE delegation received by Israeli PM Netanyahu at airport

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The first official UAE delegation to Israel landed at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on Tuesday, accompied by top US officials including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The UAE-US delegation was received by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opened the trilateral ceremony, which included the signing of four Israel-UAE agreements regarding the promotion and protection of investments, science and innovation, aviation, and visa exemptions.

Netanyahu announced that the UAE and Israel will allow their citizens to travel between countries without visas.

Read more: Open for business: How UAE-Israel peace is driving deals at breakneck speed

In his speech, Netanyahu said that the officials are “making history in a way that will stand for generations.”

“Jews and Arabs are the descendants of one common ancestor: Abraham…in his spirit we wish to foster a Middle East of coexistence and cooperation,” he added.

Abraham Fund announced

The US announced the “Abraham Fund,” a joint American-Israeli-Emirati initiative based in Jerusalem focused on strengthening regional economic resiliency across the Middle East and to North African countries.

The Abraham Fund will start with a $3 billion trilateral commitment, said US International Development Finance Corporation CEO Adam Boehler.

The countries will “trilaterally open a development office based in Israel to identify and initiate strategic projects with a high developmental impact, including those that catalyze economic growth, improve standards of living, and create high-value, quality jobs,” according to a joint statement.

People walking near the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City. (Reuters)
People walking near the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City. (Reuters)

UAE Minister of State Ahmed Al Sayegh said that the fund “reflects the desire of the three countries to put the wellbeing of people first, regardless of their creed or identity.”

Participation from other countries to advance the objectives of the fund - promoting regional economic cooperation and prosperity in the Middle East and beyond - is welcomed, the statement said.

Boehler added that “we’ve already made progress…to change and modernize the checkpoints for Palestinians throughout all of Israel and Jordan.”

Israeli soldiers stand guard at the al-Zaim checkpoint on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. (AFP)
Israeli soldiers stand guard at the al-Zaim checkpoint on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. (AFP)

In his remarks, Mnuchin said that along with the United States, “Israel and the UAE share a similar outlook regarding threats and opportunities in the region.”

After the ceremony, Netanyahu, Mnuchin, US Assistant to the President Avi Berkowitz, UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, and UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri met in a closed door meeting, according to the prime minister's office.

The delegation visit is confined to the area of Ben Gurion airport due to coronavirus precautions.

An Israeli delegation already visited the UAE’s capital city Abu Dhabi on August 31, taking the first direct flight in history from Israel to the UAE.

The Emirati delegation boarded an Etihad Airways flight on Tuesday morning at the airport in Abu Dhabi.

On Monday the first ever passenger flight from the UAE to Israel landed near Tel Aviv, one month after the countries signed an agreement normalizing ties. Only flight crew were on board.

The flight was operated by Etihad Airways, which became the first Gulf airline to operate a civilian flight to Israel.

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