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Israel to Open First Diplomatic Mission in United Arab Emirates

Israel is set to open its first diplomatic-level mission in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Reuters reported on Friday.

Israel’s mission will be officially accredited to the newly formed International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a global organization that encourages governments to adopt various forms of sustainable energy.

Israeli officials reportedly met with their counterparts from Gulf states during recent nuclear non-proliferation talks in Switzerland, with a delegation from Israel’s foreign ministry visiting the IRENA headquarters in Abu Dhabi last week. The “headquarters agreement” governing IRENA states that all members “have the right to send permanent missions accredited to the organization.”

Ha’aretz added that secret discussions about opening an Israeli representative office in Abu Dhabi have been ongoing for several years.

In fact, this idea was what prompted Israel, at the conference that founded IRENA in January 2009, to unexpectedly support the UAE instead of Germany as the world headquarters of the organization.

A senior Israeli official related that one of the conditions involved in Israel’s support for the UAE was that no restrictions would be imposed on Israeli participation in the activities of IRENA in Abu Dhabi, regardless of political realities, and that Israel would be permitted to open a diplomatic mission there that would be accredited to the agency. …

In January 2010, Uzi Landau, Israel’s minister for infrastructure, participated in an IRENA conference in Abu Dhabi, marking the first time an Israeli cabinet minister had visited the UAE.

The UAE does not recognize Israel, and the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations. In 2010, the UAE announced that it would forbid any individuals suspected of having an Israeli passport from entering the country. The announcement was made in the wake of the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a leading financier for Hamas, in Dubai. The UAE attributed the operation to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, which has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement. Notably, last year, Israel’s minister of national infrastructure, energy and water spoke at an IRENA conference in the UAE and met with Arab ministers there.

It is believed that Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 powers and its ongoing sponsorship of terrorist proxies across the Middle East have prompted a thawing of relations between Israel and the Gulf states. In June, Dore Gold, the director-general of Israel’s foreign ministry, met publicly with Anwar Eshki, a retired Saudi general, to discuss their concerns about Iran’s activities across the region.

Last week, a column published in the Kuwait Times asserted that Israel is not the enemy of all Arab states. “Take Kuwait, for an example,” the author, Saleh al-Shayeji, wrote. “Is Israel a real enemy of it? Has it ever invaded it? Has it fought it? Has it killed its citizens? The answer to all the above questions is a big fat NO. Why does Kuwait consider Israel as an enemy while it deals with Iraq, that already invaded and occupied it, as a friend, brother and neighbor?”

Al-Shayeji’s column echoes another published in a Kuwaiti government paper in June, which argued, “Israel is a friendly state that does not endanger us in the Arab Gulf region and we have nothing to fear from it. The one who threatens us, carries out acts of terror and destruction against us, and aspires to occupy us is the arrogant Persian enemy, represented by the regime of the Persian state (Iran), which is the incubator and supportive environment for global terror.”

[Photo: Noel Reynolds / Flickr ]