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Israel’s new ties with the Arab world

After Naftali Bennett became the first Israeli prime minister to visit Egypt in more than a decade, we look at the Jewish state’s wooing of the Arab world.

Here is a timeline of the continuing rapprochement that began last August and which has since led to a normalisation of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

– ‘Huge breakthrough’ –

In a surprise announcement on August 13, 2020, then US president Donald Trump says Israel and the UAE have reached a “historic” agreement to normalise ties.

Previously, Egypt and Jordan were the only Arab states to have peace agreements under which they recognise Israel.

Israel’s then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the agreement means “a new era in relations between Israel and the Arab world”.

The UAE says that under the deal Israel will “suspend” its annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, but Netanyahu says it has simply been put off.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas calls the deal a “betrayal” of their cause, including their claim to East Jerusalem as capital of their future state.

– First direct flight –

On August 30, the UAE lifts a boycott of Israel.

The next day, an Israeli El Al aircraft makes the first commercial flight between the two countries, linking Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law heading an Israeli-US delegation on board, says Saudi Arabia allowed the plane to overfly its airspace.

– ‘Stab in the back’ –

Trump announces 10 days later that as well as the UAE, Bahrain will also normalise ties with Israel.

On September 15, the two Gulf states, which have never been in conflict with Israel, sign the accords at the White House.

The Palestinians condemn the agreements as a “stab in the back”.

Israel and the UAE suspend visa requirements a month later, a first in the Arab world.

– Sudan, Morocco –

On October 23, Sudan also normalises ties as Trump agrees to take it off a US sanctions blacklist of states which allegedly sponsor terrorism.

In December, Morocco becomes the fourth Arab state to normalise relations with Israel last year in a deal that sees the US recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara.

– Saudi ‘visit’ –

Amid Saudi denials, Israeli sources say Netanyahu met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) during a secret visit to the kingdom on November 22.

– Ambassadors –

In early 2021, Israel announces it will open an embassy in the UAE.

In March, the first Emirati ambassador in Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja, presents his credentials to Israeli president Reuven Rivlin.

– Investment and media –

On March 11, the UAE announces the creation of a $10-billion investment fund in Israel focussed on strategic sectors.

The international television channel i24News in June opens a permanent bureau in Dubai, a first for an Israel-based media outlet.

– Israeli embassies –

On June 29, Lapid visits the UAE to open Israel’s first embassy in the Gulf.

On July 26, the day after the direct first commercial flight between Israel and Morocco, Lapid says both countries will open embassies within “a few months”.

– Cairo visit –

On Monday Bennett meets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, hours after he became the first Israeli premier to visit Cairo since 2011.