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First UAE ambassador to Israel takes up post

Israel’s president on Monday formally received the first-ever ambassador from the United Arab Emirates to the Jewish state, following last year’s historic agreement between the countries to normalise ties.

UAE envoy Mohamed Al Khaja, who arrived in Israel earlier Monday, delivered his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at a ceremony in Jerusalem.

After greeting Khaja in Arabic, Rivlin said: “The entire Israeli people welcomes you with joy.

“This will be your most important mission — to welcome the hands reaching out to you… treaties are signed by leaders, but real, sustained peace is made between peoples, face to face,” the president said.

Khaja said he would “work tirelessly to strengthen the political ties between our two countries, in the service of our peoples and regional stability.”

The UAE was the first country to agree to establish full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state under the Abraham Accords, a pact brokered by former US president Donald Trump.

The agreement made the UAE only the third majority Arab nation to form official ties with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have subsequently joined the Abraham Accords.

The agreements broke with a longstanding Arab consensus that there should be no normalisation with Israel until it reaches a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have condemned the normalisation deals with Israel, describing them as treason.

The Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the coastal Palestinian enclave of Gaza, on Monday slammed Khaja’s arrival in Israel, calling it a “national sin” on the part of the United Arab Emirates.

“Normalisation will always encourage the Israeli occupation to deny our Palestinian people’s rights and to continue its crimes against all segments of the Arab world,” it said in a statement.

Earlier Monday, Khaja met Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in Jerusalem, who wished him success in his “historic mission”.

Khaja told Ashkenazi he was “very proud and honoured to be the first Emirati ambassador to the State of Israel”.

Israel opened its UAE embassy in January, with veteran diplomat Eitan Naeh heading the Abu Dhabi mission.

Israel and the UAE have already signed treaties on direct flights and visa-free travel, along with accords on investment protection, science and technology.

On Tuesday, Khaja was scheduled to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and education centre.