DUBAI — In a dramatic acceleration of the warm and deepening ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, a delegation of 15 Jewish and Arab mayors from Israel have arrived in Dubai for three days of high-level meetings and briefings.
The trip was developed by Ofir Okunis, Israel’s Minister for Regional Affairs.
Akunis invited several Israeli media outlets — including ALL ISRAEL NEWS — to join the delegation.
This is the first published report about the visit.
"This delegation of Israeli mayors, an initiative by Minister Ofir Akunis and the Israeli Ministry of Regional Cooperation, is an important step in the growing relations between Israel and the Gulf based on the Abraham Accords,” David Aaronson, senior advisor to Minister Akunis, told ALL ISRAEL NEWS.
“It will help cement these new regional ties, not just at the top, but more importantly, on the local and municipal levels.”
Regional protocol mandates that Israel’s prime minister visits a Gulf country first, before other ministers. A state visit to the UAE and Bahrain by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being planned. Thus, Akunis is not accompanying the delegation, though he and his team organized it, working closely with his UAE counterpart.
The Israeli group is led by Haim Bibas, mayor of Modiin and chair of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel. The delegation includes both Jewish and Arab mayors from cities all across Israel, reflecting the diverse societies of the Israeli population.
“Both Israel and the UAE have much to offer in areas of technology, agriculture, tourism, and culture,” said Aaronson. “There is so much that our local officials can do together to partner in these fields and more. I want to thank Dubai Tourism, the UAE Ministry of International Cooperation, the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, and my colleagues here in the Israeli Ministry of Regional Cooperation for all their hard work in putting this trip together. I am confident that the results of our efforts will be amazing."
The group will visit both Dubai, the commercial capital of the country, as well as Abu Dhabi, the government capital.
The mayors' focus will be on building relationships and planning a range of tourism projects to bring more Israelis to the UAE, but also to welcome the first Emiratis to Israel early in 2021.
On Monday, the group will attend special briefings at GITEX, the global technology and investment expo being held in Dubai this week. The live, in-person event features 1,200 exhibitors from 60 countries.
The highlight of GITEX will be the “UAE-Israel Future Digital Economy Summit” on Monday from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“The inaugural UAE-Israel Future Digital Economy Summit presents vast opportunities for business collaborations, investor networking, sharing of ideas and experiencing mind-boggling innovations of two of the world’s most future-driven nations,” notes the website.
I will be reporting for ALL ISRAEL NEWS every step of the way of the delegation’s visit, including interviews with the mayors and UAE officials. Please watch for regular updates on our website and on our social media accounts.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.