Since last Thursday’s announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to historic full diplomatic relations, the country has been abuzz with speculation as to what this means for Israeli politics, businesses, travel and, of course, which country will be next.
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke directly to Emirati citizens in an unprecedented interview with Sky News Arabia, saying the agreement was a game changer and that he believes it is only a matter of time before other Arab countries also sign deals with Israel — possibly even the Palestinians, he said.
Netanyahu told Dubai-based Sky News Arabia that he will suspend annexation plans for now in exchange for furthering peace in the region.
“Well, this was an American request, for a moment, to suspend the application of Israeli law, and we agreed,” he said. “The Americans told us that they wanted to expand the framework of peace, and that is our highest priority right now: expanding the circle of peace.”
U.S. presidential adviser Jared Kushner confirmed that the U.S. would not consent to annexation “for some time.”
“Right now, the focus has to be on getting this new peace agreement implemented,” he told reporters.
Netanyahu noted that both countries would benefit “greatly from the deal” in several industries. In fact, according to the Manufacturers Association of Israel, about 200 Israeli companies already export products to the UAE, but trade must be done through subsidiary companies in a third country. After ties are established direct export should be possible.
“We are certain this agreement will expand the until-now unofficial commercial ties with the UAE and allow the export of additional products, such as medicine, whose country of origin must be clearly marked,” Ron Tomer, president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, told Calclist in an interview.
Business people in both Israel and the UAE are already chomping at the bit to connect and there is already talk of direct flights from Tel Aviv to a few of the Emirates — possibly over Saudi airspace as well.
“We are now working on enabling direct flights over Saudi Arabia between Tel Aviv and Dubai,” Netanyahu said. “This will change Israeli aviation and the Israeli economy with a huge amount of tourism for both sides and investments.”
Israeli media has been focusing on potential tourism in both directions. Emirati citizens have uploaded dozens of virtual invitations to Israelis on social media and have also expressed their own desire to visit Muslim sites in Israel.
Meanwhile, the major story is, which country will be next? Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with the Omani Foreign Minister Yousef bin Alawi on Monday leading to speculation that Oman is ready. Bahrain is also rumored to be close to a deal with Israel. On Tuesday, Sudan announced it too “aspires towards a peace agreement with Israel… a relationship of equals built upon Khartoum’s interests.” Sudan foreign ministry spokesperson Haidar Badawi Sadiq told Sky News Arabia. “There’s no reason for the enmity to continue.”
In the meantime, President Reuven Rivlin extended an invitation to the UAE Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to visit Israel.