Jerusalem: The Israel Foreign Ministry said that its new foreign minister Yair Lapid will head to the United Arab Emirates next week. This will be the first-ever visit by a top Israeli diplomat to the Gulf Arab country.
The ministry informed that Lapid will visit the UAE in June 29-30, and will inaugurate an Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai. Lapid, on his first trip in his new role, will be the guest of UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi next Tuesday and Wednesday,
Lapid's trip comes after the two countries normalised relations last year in an agreement brokered by the Trump administration, the first of four similar deals with Arab states that had long shunned Israel over its conflict with the Palestinians.
Both Israel's new government and the Biden administration have said they hope to reach similar accords with other Arab states. Israel and the UAE have meanwhile continued working to deepen ties despite last month's Gaza war.
Ties between Israel and the UAE are an important relationship, the fruits of which will be enjoyed not only by the citizens of the two countries, but by the entire Middle East, it said in a statement.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted a message of support after Lapid's announcement.
"This is an important historic event," Bennett wrote. "Israeli-Emirates relations are an important part of Israel's foreign policy and we will work to deepen them.
"Good luck Yair," he added, along with emoji of the Israeli and Emirati flags.
Lapid was the driving force behind a new Israeli government sworn in just over a week ago that ended Benjamin Netanyahu's record 12-year run as prime minister. Netanyahu and Trump had held up the agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco as among their biggest achievements.
Israelis have flocked to the UAE since the agreement was reached to enjoy futuristic Dubai. The UAE is a major global travel hub, and normalization has made it much easier for Israelis to travel further afield. The two countries have also signed a raft of agreements to cooperate in commerce, technology and other fields.
Shortly after the accord was reached, the Trump administration authorized the sale of 50 advanced F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, which would make it only the second country in the Middle East, after Israel, to acquire them.
The Biden administration put that agreement on hold in January after it drew fierce criticism from Democrats in Congress, who argued that the sale had unfolded too quickly and without sufficient transparency. But in April, the administration decided to proceed with the $23 billion arms sale, saying it would work with the UAE to ensure adherence to human rights standards and the laws of war.
The Palestinians strongly criticised the normalisation agreements because they broke down a longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel should only be granted in return for concessions in the peace process, which has been moribund for more than a decade.