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President Herzog in historic visit to the UAE

What happened: During President Isaac Herzog’s visit in the UAE, the local air defence systems intercepted a ballistic missile that was fired at Abu Dhabi by the Houthis in Yemen. No one was injured and no damage was caused.

  • Herzog’s office clarified that “no danger was posed to the president and his entourage”.
  • According to the UAE Ministry of Defence, the missile launcher in Yemen was destroyed in a joint operation by the Emirates and the coalition forces under Saudi Arabian leadership.
  • Earlier in the day, President Herzog was received by a formal ceremony, where both national anthems were played. Herzog’s welcome also included the royal guard of honour, which performed a 21-gun salute.
  • Herzog first held a diplomatic meeting with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Herzog said: “This visit is an expression, of the vision and dream of peace and the spirit of peace, which we bring to the entire region. We are two successful nations who started with very little in our hands, developed our lands into a successful paradise and in many ways set an example to the world of how to lead and develop a nation with a vision of the future. And this sends a message to the entire region that there is an alternative of peace and living together, and that the sons and daughters of Abraham can reside and dwell together in peaceful coexistence for the benefit of humanity.”
  • Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said: “Firstly, I would like to thank you for your stance regarding the recent terrorist attacks on civilian facilities in the UAE. It is a stance that demonstrates our common view of the threats to regional stability and peace, particularly those posed by militias and terrorist forces, as well as our shared understanding of the importance of taking a firm stance against them.”
  • He added: “Through peace, we in the UAE, Israel and the wider region can direct resources and capabilities towards serving our nations and paving the way for a better tomorrow.”
  • After the meeting, in a personal gesture, the Crown Prince invited President Herzog for a follow-up meeting at his private palace. The extended meeting was described by Herzog’s office as “warm and cordial meeting lasted over two hours”.

Context: Last night’s missile strike was the third attack by the Houthis against the UAE in the last three weeks. Three foreign citizens were killed in the first attack, which targeted the airport in Abu Dhabi and oil tankers. In the second attack, two ballistic missiles fired at Abu Dhabi were intercepted.

  • The Houthis, backed and trained by Iran, seem determined to establish a new equation in which as long as the Emirates and Saudi Arabia continue to attack them in Yemen, the UAE will also be targeted.
  • The timing of this latest attack appears deliberately timed to coincide with Herzog’s visit.  According to a statement by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards: “The presence of the Zionist regime in the Persian Gulf is unacceptable to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Only fire can cleanse Satan’s steps in the Persian Gulf. Mohammad bin Zayed, we will provide you with fire.”
  • The visit is another marker on the expanding relations within the paradigm of the Abraham Accords. Two weeks ago the Wall Street Journal reported that a major sovereign-wealth fund in the UAE invested around $100 million in Israeli venture-capital firms in the technology sector.
  • In a further sign of policy coordination, last week Israeli media reported that Israel and the UAE have been coordinating their messages and positions to the US regarding the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna.
  • Israeli officials have also been closely monitoring the Houthis attacks against the UAE.  Following the first attack Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wrote to Emirati Crown Prince: “We stand ready to offer you security and intelligence support in order to help you protect your citizens from similar attacks … I have ordered the Israeli security establishment to provide their counterparts in the UAE with any assistance.”
  • Also this weekend, an editorial was published in the Kuwaiti daily Arab Times that called for Gulf states to normalise relations with Israel. Ahmed al-Jarallah, the editor-in-chief of the paper, also questioned why they supported the Palestinians despite the Palestinians repeatedly insulting the Gulf states.

 Looking ahead: President Herzog will continue his visit today. He is scheduled to visit the international expo in Dubai today, and then return to Israel.

  • Last week Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Israel is looking to expand the Abraham Accords to additional countries beyond the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. According to Lapid, “Indonesia is one of them, Saudi Arabia of course, but these things take time.”

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