Israel’s foreign minister on Sunday visited the United Arab Emirates and met with senior UAE officials on the sideline of the UN Environment Conference, in the latest sign of warming ties between Israel and the Gulf Arab states.
The Jewish state and the Sunni Arab world share some basic foreign policy concerns, in particular the rise of Iran as a regional power and Islamic fundamentalism.
In high-level talks with UAE officials, Yisrael Katz discussed the need to confront the threat of a nuclear Iran, the country’s ballistic missile program, and its support for terror proxies across the region, including Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Other regional issues were also addressed, such as the potential for cooperation with the UAE in the fields of counter-extremism, technology, energy, agriculture, and water management.
Katz noted that his trip to Abu Dhabi marked “a significant advancement” in ties between Israel and the Arab world. The UAE has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
“I am excited to stand here in Abu Dhabi and represent the interests of the state of Israel vis-a-vis the Arab Gulf states,” the minister said.
“I will continue to work with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to promote the normalization policy with the strength we are leading, based on Israel’s capabilities, both in the fields of security and intelligence, and in various civilian areas,” he added.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Katz also presented the “Tracks for Regional Peace” initiative that is intended to connect Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf countries – along with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority – to Israel’s Mediterranean ports by a network of railroad tracks.
The minister’s visit to Abu Dhabi marked the third such trip by an Israeli official to the UAE since October and came on the heels of the U.S.-led economic workshop in Bahrain at which Israeli representatives openly met with Gulf officials.