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Israel’s Lapid begins ‘historic’ UAE trip

Israel’s top diplomat Yair Lapid on Tuesday began the first ever official visit by an Israeli minister to the United Arab Emirates, after the two nations normalised ties in September.

Lapid tweeted a picture of himself from inside a plane, with the caption: “Taking off for a historic visit to the UAE.”

Israeli ministers have previously visited the Gulf nation, but Lapid is the most senior Israeli to make the trip, and the first to travel on an official journey.

Since the normalisation accord with the UAE was brokered by then US president Donald Trump’s administration, Israel has signed a raft of deals with the UAE, ranging from tourism to aviation and financial services.

During his visit, Lapid will inaugurate the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi, as well as the Consulate General of Israel in Dubai.

“The Israeli delegation will land late morning at Abu Dhabi, and will be received by the minister of economic affairs at the foreign ministry,” the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

In March, a planned official visit by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was cancelled due to a “dispute” with Jordan over the use of its airspace, according to Israeli officials.

Netanyahu, replaced as prime minister by Jewish nationalist Naftali Bennett in a coalition government cobbled together by Lapid, had already postponed a February visit to the UAE and Bahrain over coronavirus travel restrictions.

The normalisation accords between Israel and the UAE, as well as Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, have been condemned by the Palestinians as they break with years of Arab League policy which has held that there should be no relations with Israel until it makes peace with the Palestinians.