JERUSALEM — In his first interview with the international media since assuming his new Cabinet position over the summer, Israeli Minister for Regional Cooperation Ofir Akunis told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that the White House ceremony for the signing of the historic peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is being planned for next week.
The likely date is either Tuesday, Sept. 15, or Wednesday, Sept. 16.
"We are talking these days about a real new Middle East," Akunis said. "The peace treaty with the Emirates that the prime minister is supposed to sign next week in Washington — this is a huge opportunity to build a real New Middle East — not...what we talked about in the 1990s with Shimon Peres and the Oslo Agreements. We're talking about a peace treaty with the Emirates. And I think that we have here a huge opportunity to establish a real regional economic cooperation with the Emirates and with others. I want the Jordanians to be a part, the Egyptians, Cyprus and others."
The specific date and the remaining details of the extraordinary event are expected to be finalized in the coming days.
Akunis told me that Israel wants to sign the treaty with the UAE soon, ideally ahead of the start of the Jewish High Holidays.
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on the night of Friday, Sept. 18.
The prime minister would need to be back in Jerusalem ahead of that, so would likely need to leave Washington no later than Thursday, Sept. 17.
Akunis also confirmed to me media reports earlier in the day that a delegation of senior Emirati officials are expected to come to Israel on Sept. 22. They will meet with their Israeli counterparts to hammer out more specifics of setting up embassies, appointing ambassadors and coordinating economic ties and cultural and religious cooperation.
Akunis praised Netanyahu's strategic vision for reaching out to the United Arab Emirates and finalizing a deal for peace with the first Arab state in more than a quarter of a century, and the first of the Gulf States ever.
Akunis said we are living in "one of the greatest times of Israel in the last decade."
As Minister of Regional Cooperation, Akunis will be a key player — together with the Prime Minister's Office, the National Security Advisor and Israel's Foreign Ministry — in building strong ties with the people, businesses and government of the United Arab Emirates.
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.