President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog landed this morning in Abu Dhabi making history as the first Israeli presidential couple to visit the United Arab Emirates and to fly over Saudi Arabian airspace to get there.
"We were delighted and deeply moved by the warm welcome in Abu Dhabi by the UAE foreign minister," Herzog tweeted upon landing.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, welcomed the couple and then held a diplomatic working meeting with the president. Bin Zayed represented the Emirati delegation at the signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House in September 2020.
In December, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett became the first Israeli prime minister to make an official visit to the Gulf state and extended an invitation for bin Zayed to come to Israel.
"Our cooperation provides unprecedented economic opportunities not only for us, but for more countries, which is another element for enhancing stability and prosperity in this region," Bennett said at the time in an interview with WAM, the UAE's official news agency.
Herzog said he plans to tell the crown prince he is grateful for "his courage and bold leadership, carving out a peace agreement with Israel and sending a message to the entire region that peace is the only alternative for the peoples of the region.”
Though Saudi Arabia does not have official ties with Israel, the Kingdom gave approval for Israeli planes to use its airspace which cuts travel time to the United Arab Emirates and other destinations.
En route to the UAE, the pilot announced that the president’s plane was about to cross over Riyadh.
“No doubt, this is truly a very moving moment,” Herzog said.
Herzog is expected to meet the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates and crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, later today at the royal palace.
ARE REGIONAL TIES PRIME FOR WARMING – AND MORE PEACE AGREEMENTS?
Ahead of Herzog's visit, Israel’s ambassador to the UAE published an editorial in The Khaleej Times today extolling the quickly progressing ties between the nations, calling them "natural."
"Nothing could have prepared any of us at the time for the fact that only a short year and a half later, this relationship between our countries, that so many deemed impossible, would feel so natural," he wrote. "This week, we will welcome President Isaac Herzog for the first official visit of an Israeli President to the UAE. This is another historical moment, one of hope and promise for the continued prosperity of the relationship between our countries. I am convinced that looking back at these important days, we will recognize them as the building blocks of a new world for future generations, a world of peace and tolerance."
Before he departed Israel, Herzog said he was “bringing with me a blessing of peace and a message of peace to the entire region, to the peoples of the region. Peace brings with it prosperity, progress, and growth for the benefit of the peoples of the region.”
His visit comes just after an editorial was published over the weekend in the Kuwait-based newspaper, the Arab Times, calling for more nations to normalize ties with Israel.
“Normalize, Let Insulters Fend For Themselves,” the headline read. This editorial came just days after a Kuwaiti poet published a column blasting anti-Semitism in her country.
Calling for compassion and coexistence towards Israel and the Jewish people, she wrote: “There is no justified reason for the prejudice against Jews. And there is no other time but now to wake up from this stupor of separation. Now.”
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.