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Israel scouting for UAE embassy building as countries begin drafting agreements: reports

The deal has been slammed by Palestinians [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 August, 2020

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Israeli authorities are reportedly searching for a suitable building to stand as the official embassy in Abu Dhabi, as reports suggest the two countries have started drafting agreements.

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The United Arab Emirates and Israel have started drafting texts of detailed agreements as part of the new formal diplomatic relations between the two countries, as the Jewish state scouts for an official headquarters in the Gulf state. 

The move comes ahead of planned talks in Abu Dhabi that will host an official Israeli delegation in the UAE for the first time, according to Haaretz.

The Israeli daily said authorities are currently searching for a building to be used as the official Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi.

The Middle East felt shockwaves, after Trump announced on Thursday that the UAE had normalised ties with Israel, only the third between the Jewish state and an Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan.

Palestinians of all political leanings – from the secular Fatah of Mahmoud Abbas to the Hamas Islamist – have been unanimous in their condemnation of the deal, viewing the UAE as sacrificing the Palestinian cause to gain commercial relations with Israel.

While the agreement supposedly delays Israel's plans to unilaterally annex large swathes of the West Bank and Jordan Valley, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly urged that annexation will only be delayed.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia has been conspicuously silent on the deal with no official reaction emerging from Riyadh.

Since Thursday, the UAE has taken steps to formalise the normalisation process, including signing an agreement to jointly develop research and studies on the novel coronavirus, the UAE's state WAM agency reported.

The UAE's APEX National Investment and Israel's TeraGroup signed the "strategic commercial agreement" late Saturday in Abu Dhabi, WAM said in a statement.

"We are delighted with this cooperation with TeraGroup, which is considered the first business to inaugurate trade, economy and effective partnerships between the Emirati and Israeli business sectors," APEX chairman Khalifa Yousef Khouri said.

Israeli officials, including the controversial former police chief Dhahi Khalfan, appeared on an Israeli channel for the first time on Saturday, just days after the announcement.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also agreed to allow Tel Aviv-bound flights from Dubai and back to fly through its airspace, reports said, after the two countries struck a normalisation deal.

Citing a report in Hebrew, Arabi21 said on Sunday that the normalisation agreement had received "great attention" from Israelis wishing to visit the Emirates.

A senior advisor to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed was quoted saying holders of Israeli passports "will be able to visit the Emirates within three to five months".

Flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai will pass over Saudi Arabia, the unnamed source said.

Saudi Arabia first opened its airspace to Israel-bound passenger planes in March 2018.

"In the coming weeks, teams from the two sides will meet to formulate bilateral relations, including the inauguration of two embassies in Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, but as a first step, only low-level diplomatic missions or consulates will be opened," said the chief advisor.

Read also: Saudi Arabia will 'inevitably' normalise ties with Israel: Kushner

Tel-Aviv based reporter Itay Blumental claimed in a seperate report that Israeli businessmen had already been travelling to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on special visas, in addition to Israeli tourists who hold dual citizenship.

"In recent years, there has been a significant increase in business flights between the two countries," Blumental said, claiming diplomats often made a stop in Jordan, Egypt and Cyprus rather than fly direct.

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