Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel and the United Arab Emirates would cooperate in the fight against the coronavirus — a possible boost to Israeli efforts to normalize relations with Gulf Arab countries.
Netanyahu said a formal announcement on working together with the UAE on confronting the COVID-19 pandemic was imminent and would be made by the UAE and Israeli health ministers.
The UAE’s Foreign Affairs Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Such cooperation would come at a time of strong Arab opposition to Israel‘s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
Last week, the UAE’s minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said it could work with Israel on some areas, including the battle against the coronavirus and on technology, despite political differences.
Addressing a military ceremony in southern Israel, Netanyahu said, “Our ability to act against the corona pandemic could also serve the entire region, and is also creating for us the opportunity for open cooperation, which we have hitherto not had, with certain countries in the region.”
“This cooperation will be in research and development, and technology, fields which could improve the health security of the entire region,” he added. “This is the result of continuous and intensive contacts over the past few months. It will be a blessing for many in our region.”
Israel has no official diplomatic relations with Arab countries in the Gulf, but common concerns about Iran’s regional influence have led to a limited thaw in behind-the-scenes ties.
In May, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad made the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel, carrying coronavirus-related aid for the Palestinians.
Speaking to a conference of the American Jewish Committee advocacy group on June 16, Gargash said Israel could not expect to normalize relations with the Arab world if it annexed West Bank land. He also said cooperation with Israel on the COVID-19 pandemic would not affect the UAE’s opposition to annexation.
Israel is due on July 1 to begin a cabinet debate on extending Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.
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Author: Algemeiner Staff and Agencies
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