First signs of thawing Israel-UAE ties as telephones ring

The United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister makes the first-ever direct phone call to Israel as lines are unblocked.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The first signs of opening ties between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel was a simple phone call.

Early Sunday afternoon, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan called Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi as the phone lines between the two countries were unblocked for the first time between the two countries.

The call was officially celebrated, as UAE spokeswoman Hend al-Otaiba tweeted that the foreign minister had “inaugurated a phone link between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel following the historic Peace Accord signed by the two countries Friday.”

Until now, if someone tried dialing Israel’s country code 972, he would get a recording saying the call could not be connected.

Internet connections also improved dramatically as Emirati filtering ceased. Calls that before Sunday had been frequently interrupted were freely available, and Israeli news websites were accessible without the need for workarounds.

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel welcomed the opened network lines and the broader commercial ties they signify.

“Many economic opportunities are now open, and these confidence-building measures are an important step in advancing the states’ interests. Salaam Aleikum [Welcome],” he said.

Israel and the UAE have reportedly had secret trade relations for years worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually, especially in the defense sphere. Ynet cited reports Sunday that said that Israel has sold the Emiratis cyber and border defense systems and precision-guided missiles, and even upgraded UAE fighter jets. They have also reportedly shared intelligence information under the radar, along with other Gulf states.

All of this underground activity took place in the effort to combat the security threat both countries see in Iran, which borders the UAE and wouldn’t mind seeing the Sunni Arab state fall. Now that goods and services can flow openly, a huge jump in sales is anticipated that will bolster the Israeli economy at a time when the Jewish State has officially entered a deep recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Civilian commercial ties also reportedly existed in the past, although Israeli markings had to be removed from the goods before they could enter the marketplace. The change in status has already begun, as the Emirati state news agency WAM reported that the UAE Apex National Investment Company held a press conference to announce that it has signed a “strategic commercial agreement” with Israel’s TeraGroup to develop a testing device for the coronavirus.

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Israel expects to send an official delegation next week to the Arab federation of seven sheikhdoms to work on a range of agreements, including security, tourism, investments and telecommunications.