Israel’s Mossad spy agency chief Yossi Cohen visited the United Arab Emirates for security talks, Emirati state media reported Tuesday, only days after the countries agreed to establish diplomatic ties.
The head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service discussed “cooperation in the fields of security” with the UAE’s national security advisor, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi, reported the official WAM news agency.
The United States, Israel and UAE, along with several other Gulf states, have a common foe in Iran, which they accuse of seeking a nuclear bomb, fuelling regional instability and backing militant groups.
Cohen’s trip marked the first visit to the UAE by an Israeli official after the announcement last week by US President Donald Trump that the two countries had agreed to normalise relations.
“The two sides discussed prospects for cooperation in the fields of security as well as exchanged points of view on regional developments and on issues of common interest” including efforts to contain COVID-19, the report said.
As part of the landmark deal, the Jewish state agreed to suspend the annexation of occupied West Bank territories, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the plan was not off the table in the long run.
Trump said leaders from the two countries would sign the historic agreement at the White House in the coming weeks.
Netanyahu last week called Cohen to thank him for the Mossad’s assistance “in developing the ties with the Gulf states over the years, which assisted in bringing the peace treaty to fruition,” the prime minister’s office said.
Palestinians protested the deal which they saw as a betrayal by a major player in the Arab world, which has broadly held that normal ties with Israel are only possible once its dispute with the Palestinians is resolved.
Israel-UAE tensions had run high in 2010 after Mossad was widely blamed for the assassination in a Dubai hotel room of an operative for the Islamist group Hamas, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
– ‘Making history’ –
The Israel-UAE deal is only the third such accord Israel has struck with an Arab country, and raises the prospect of similar deals with other pro-Western Gulf states.
The Israeli prime minister appeared Monday on Sky News Arabia in his first ever interview with the Abu Dhabi-based network.
“This is a great moment … we are making history,” he said, adding: “This is a combination of limitless possibilities.”
UAE ally Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, has maintained a conspicuous silence over the deal, but local officials have hinted that Riyadh is unlikely to immediately follow the UAE, its principle regional ally, despite US pressure.
Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner insisted on Monday that it would be in Riyadh’s interest to formally establish ties with Israel.
“It would be very good for Saudi business, it would very good for Saudi’s defence, and, quite frankly, I think it would also help the Palestinian people,” Kushner said.
Netanyahu on Monday said Israel was working on opening a corridor over Saudi Arabia for flights to the UAE.
Meanwhile, Oman’s minister responsible for foreign affairs spoke to his Israeli counterpart on Monday, the first publicised contact since the announcement of the UAE-Israel deal.
Yusuf bin Alawi and Israel’s Gabi Ashkenazi spoke via telephone about “recent developments in the region,” Oman’s foreign ministry said on Twitter.
Oman, along with Bahrain, had already expressed its support for the deal, and bin Alawi told Ashkenazi that Muscat “clearly reaffirms its position calling for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace” in the Middle East.
Other Gulf countries, including Kuwait and Qatar, have so far remained silent on the Israel-UAE agreement.