Knesset appoves Israel-UAE peace treaty

First Abu Dabi official delegation to Jerusalem expected next week

The Israeli Knesset approved on Thursday the US-brokered normalisation deal with the United Arab Emirates with an overwhelming majority, all but ensuring that it will be ratified in the near future. 80 lawmakers voted in favour of the agreement, including many from the opposition.

Only 13 parliamentarians - all from the Arab-majority Joint List - voted against the agreement, criticising it as a scheme to undermine the Palestinian people. There were no abstentions, but 27 MKs refused to participate in the vote.

The vote took place after nearly nine hours of an at times stormy debate, during which more than 100 ministers and MKs spoke. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the plenary twice - at its start and right before the vote - hailing the agreement as a paradigm shift in the Arab world’s approach to Israel, while touting his role in bringing many Sunni nations closer to Israel due to his vociferous public opposition to Iran.

“Since the start of Zionism, one of our hands has been holding a weapon in defence and the other hand was stretched out to everyone who wants peace,” he declared in his early speech, as quoted by The Israeli Time.

“They say peace is made with enemies. False. Peace is made with those who have stopped being enemies. Peace is made with those who desire peace and who no longer remain committed to your annihilation,” he added.

Now approved by the Knesset, the so-called Abraham Accords will return to the desks of ministers, who will vote on them once more. Once ratified, the agreement enters into force for Israel, but full diplomatic relations between the two countries will not be established until the UAE ratifies the agreement as well.

Emirati officials have already started the process of approving and ratifying the agreement, which was signed by the two parties in Washington on September 15, but it is unclear when it will conclude.

Meanwhile, on Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed spoke on the phone over the weekend for the first time since the peace treaty signing on the White House’s South Lawn over a month ago. Netanyahu called bin Zayed 'his friend' and said they would meet very soon.

“I invited him to visit Israel, and he invited me to visit Abu Dhabi,” he said. “But before that, we will see a delegation from the UAE here and another delegation of ours will go there.”

A UAE delegation will pay a reciprocal visit this Tuesday, after a group of high-level Israeli officials led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat flew to Abu Dhabi in August. An Israeli delegation is also expected to fly to Bahrain together with American officials on Sunday, and they will stop in the UAE, as well.

In the meantime, The United Arab Emirates and Israel have reportedly reached a preliminary agreement on avoiding double taxation, as part of moves to encourage investments between the two countries, the UAE finance ministry said on Thursday.

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