Israeli PM announces ‘cooperation’ with UAE to fight virus
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said his country would be cooperating with the United Arab Emirates to fight against the coronavirus pandemic, despite a lack of diplomatic ties.
“This collaboration will be in the areas of research and development and technology, in areas that will improve health security throughout the region,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
He did not give further details, but said that the planned cooperation — to be announced formally by health ministers for Israel and the UAE — “is the result of prolonged and intense contacts in recent months”.
Jordan and Egypt aside, Arab countries have no official relations with Israel.
But Arab states in the Gulf, including the UAE, have increasingly built informal ties with Israel in recent years amid shared concerns over Iran, which the Jewish state considers its arch-enemy.
“The stronger we are, the more powerful we are at deterring our enemies and bringing our friends closer,” Netanyahu said in his statement.
His remarks come just days before Israel intends to kick-start US-backed plans to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley.
The plan has sparked the fury of the Palestinians and drawn international condemnation.
On Wednesday the United Nations, European and Arab powers warned Israel that the plan would deal a major blow to peace.
Arab countries have repeatedly called for a settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a condition for normalising ties with the Jewish state.
And earlier this month, the Emirati ambassador to Washington warned that annexation of parts of the West Bank would jeopardise any warming of Arab-Israeli relations.
“Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with the UAE,” Yousef al-Otaiba wrote in a rare op-ed by an Emirati official in Israel’s top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot.