Israel’s foreign minister Yair Lapid headed today to the United Arab Emirates in the first official visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf state in history.
During the two-day visit, Lapid is scheduled to inaugurate Israel’s embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai.
The visit is considered the first by an Israeli minister since the two countries normalised ties last year.
A step was strongly condemned by the Palestinian Authority and widely welcomed by world powers.
The controversial visit came only a few weeks after a ceasefire ending Israel’s 11-day offensive on Gaza.
253 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed during the attacks.
Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, a scholar with the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told Al Jazeera the visit demonstrates the high priority the new Israeli government places on its Gulf partners, and it “turns the Emirati relationship into an institutional policy of the Israeli state, rather than a party policy”.
Lapid was newly appointed in a new government headed by far-right Naftali Bennett, known for his religious and nationalist stance and anti-Palestinian views.
Bennett once said: “I have killed many Arabs in my life, and there is no problem with that.”
The visit came as the UAE and Israel are strengthening the normalisation deal reached between the two countries in August 2020.
Shortly after the deal, Israelis started flocking to the UAE amid large-scale Palestinian and Arab anger.
Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan have followed in the UAE’s footsteps and signed a normalisation deal with Israel.