Israel–United Arab Emirates relations

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Israel-United Arab Emirates relations
Map indicating locations of Israel and United Arab Emirates


United Arab Emirates

Israel – United Arab Emirates relations do not currently officially exist. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) does not recognize Israel as a state, and the two countries do not have public diplomatic or economic relations. The UAE also does not allow Israeli citizens or those suspected of being Israeli citizens entry into the UAE, including Israeli passport holders, except for transit. All passengers and crew members of any nationality should ensure they do not have Israeli entry stamps in their passports.[1] There are no direct flights between Israel and the UAE so all travel must transit through a third country (such as Jordan),[2] and no Israeli aircraft may enter UAE airspace.[1] Such restrictions do not apply in Israel, though the UAE bars its citizens and aircraft from entering Israel. In recent years, the countries have engaged in extensive unofficial cooperation based on their joint opposition to Iran's nuclear program and regional influence.[3] In recent years, relations between the UAE and Israel have warmed considerably.

In 2015, Israel opened an official diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi to the International Renewable Energy Agency.[4][5][6]


Iran issue[edit]

After the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009, the Israeli and UAE ambassadors to the United States made a joint appeal in a meeting with the incoming administration's Middle East adviser to urge a tougher U.S. line on Iran.[3]

In September 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in New York. Although they agreed on the threat of Iran, the UAE refused to publicly improve relations without progress in the Israel-Palestine peace process.[7]

In 2015, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, briefed his UAE counterpart Yousef Al Otaiba on Israel's opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and urged the UAE to take a more active role in opposing the deal.[3]

Close to the end of Obama's second term as U.S. President, U.S. intelligence agencies became aware of phone communication between the two countries' officials, including between Netanyahu and a senior UAE leader, and a meeting between Netanyahu and UAE leadership in Cyprus, which was focused on cooperation against Iran.[3]

After the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President, both Israel and the UAE lobbied for a rapprochement between the United States and Russia to contain Iranian influence in Syria.[8]

In June 2017, leaked e-mails revealed that the UAE and Saudi Arabia cooperate with Israel against Iran. Close relations were established between the UAE and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a pro-Israel, neoconservative think tank also known for its influence on the administration of US President Donald Trump, in order "to find ways of hampering Iran's ability to engage in business activities with major companies around the world".[9][10]

In July 2017, the UAE mediated a meeting between Israeli intelligence and Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army, which is supported by the UAE in the Second Libyan Civil War, in order to negotiate Israeli military aid to Haftar's forces.[11]

In March 2018, Netanyahu met with Otaiba and the Bahraini ambassador to the United States at a restaurant in Washington, D.C., where the issue of Iran was discussed.[12]

On 10 October 2018, Dermer and Otaiba shared a table at the annual dinner of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, where they were seen talking to one another.[13]

Visits by Israel[edit]

On 16 January 2010, Israel's Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau attended a renewable energy conference in Abu Dhabi. He was the first Israeli minister to ever visit Abu Dhabi.[14]

In January 2016, Israel's Energy Minister visited the UAE at the site of International Renewable Energy Agency headquarters in Abu Dhabi.[15]

In September 2018, the UAE hosted secret talks in Abu Dhabi between Israeli and Turkish officials in order to discuss restoring relations between those two countries.[16]

In April 2019, Israel announced that it has been invited to take part at Dubai's Expo 2020 innovation fair.[17]

Sporting events[edit]

The UAE continues to take part in the Arab League boycott of Israel, including in sport, which dates back to 1945. Besides a ban on Israeli athletes being admitted into the country, UAE athletes are prohibited from taking part in events in Israel as well as competing against Israeli athletes in any circumstance.

In February 2010, Israeli tennis player Shahar Pe'er was denied a visa by the UAE, and thus prevented from playing at the Dubai Tennis Championships. A number of players, among them Venus Williams,[18] condemned the visa rejection, and Women's Tennis Association chief Larry Scott said that he had considered canceling the tournament, but chose not to after consulting Pe'er. Tournament director Salah Tahlak said that Pe'er was refused on the grounds that her appearance could incite anger in the Arab country, after she had already faced protests at the ASB Classic over the Gaza War.[19] The WTA said that it would review future tournaments in Dubai.[20] Due to the action, Tennis Channel decided not to televise the event[21] and The Wall Street Journal dropped its sponsorship.[22] The 2008 winner of the men's singles Andy Roddick chose not to defend his title, with prize money of over $2 million, to protest against the UAE's refusal to grant Pe'er a visa. "I really didn't agree with what went on over there. I don't know if it's the best thing to mix politics and sports, and that was probably a big part of it", Roddick said.[23]

In October 2017, when an Israeli judoka Tal Flicker won gold in an international judo championship in the UAE, officials refused to fly the Israeli flag and play the Israeli national anthem, instead playing the official music of the International Judo Federation (IJF) and flying the IJF's logo.[24] The UAE also banned Israeli athletes from wearing their country's symbols on uniforms,[24] having to wear IJF uniforms. Other contestants such as Gili Cohen received similar treatment.[24] In October 2018, the UAE reversed its position allowing the Israeli flag be displayed and anthem played when an Israeli judoka Sagi Muki won a gold medal in the Judo Grand Competition,[25][26] with the Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev, attending the events in Abu Dhabi.[27]

The 2019 AFC Asian Cup held in January 2019 was another turning point. For the first time since the expulsion of Israel from the Asian Football Confederation, the UAE allowed Israeli TV channel, Sport 5, to directly broadcast the tournament held in the country. This was seen as a sign of warming relations between two nations. Sport 5 officially broadcast the opening match between the UAE and Bahrain, and had remained active until the end of the tournament.[28] In March 2019, Israeli athletes participated in the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, held in Abu Dhabi.[29]

On 9 May 2019, the first team sporting match between Israel and the UAE took place at the Netball Europe Open Challenge at the National Sporting Centre in the Isle of Man.[30]

In November 2019, 17-year-old Israeli Alon Leviev won the gold medal in the junior category at the Ju-jitsu World Championship, held in Abu Dhabi,[31] In the same competition, Nimrod Ryder won another gold medal,[32] while Ronnie Nessimian, Meshi Rosenfeld and Roy Dagan won other medals.[33]


Mabhouh assassination[edit]

The assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on 19 January 2010, led the UAE to call for the arrest via Interpol of Meir Dagan, director of Israel's Mossad. Israel has neither denied nor confirmed any involvement. Dubai's Chief of Police, Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, stated that all travelers suspected of being Israeli will not be allowed into the country, even if they arrived on foreign passports.[34] After the incident, the UAE later proposed repairing its covert relationship with Israel through a deal where Israel would provide armed drones to them, but this was rejected by Israel due to concern that it would antagonize the United States.[3]

Travel restrictions[edit]

As the UAE does not officially recognize Israel, and does not allow Israeli citizens or those suspected of being Israeli citizens entry into the UAE, including Israeli passport holders, except for transit. However third party nationals with Israeli stamps or visas in their passports are allowed entry.[35] There are no direct flights between Israel and the UAE, so all flights must stopover in a third, neutral country (such as Jordan),[2] and no Israeli aircraft may enter UAE airspace.[1] Such restrictions do not apply in Israel, though the UAE bars its citizens and aircraft from entering Israel. Restrictions were tightened against the entry of Israeli citizens following Mahbouh's assassination in Dubai, blamed on Israeli intelligence.[36] In 2012, Qantas teamed up with Emirates, in a deal that involved Qantas flights stopping over in Dubai on Australia-Europe flights.[37] Concerns were raised as to how the UAE travel restrictions would impact Qantas passengers who are nationals of Israel or traveling on an Israeli passport, for example, if such passengers had to stay overnight in Dubai for a connection. Qantas cancelled the deal in 2018.[38]

However, there are Jewish expatriates in the UAE, and there are Israelis with dual citizenship who live, visit, and work in the UAE as citizens of other countries.[39] Some Israeli companies conduct business in the UAE indirectly through third parties.[39]

In June 2020, the UAE's Etihad Airlines landed at Ben Gurion Airport, carrying a shipment of medical supplies to assist the Palestinians during the COVID-19 pandemic.[40] Later that month, Israel announced partnership with the UAE to cooperate in the fight against coronavirus.[41]


In August 2016, pilots from both the Israel Air Force and the UAE Air Force participated in a joint Red Flag training exercise with pilots from Pakistan and Spain, in Nevada in the United States.[42][43][44]

In 2017, the Israel Air Force and the UAE Air Force held a joint exercise with the air forces of the US and Italy and Greece, in Greece, called Iniohos 2017.[42][44] Another joint aerial training occurred at Iniohos 2019.[45]

The UAE and Israel actively participate together on the Egyptian government's side against the Sinai insurgency.[46][47]


In July 2020, the Israeli Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems signed an agreement with the Emirati Group 42 technology company, to offer "effective solutions" to the COVID-19 Pandemic. [48]


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  3. ^ a b c d e New Yorker, 16/6/2018, Donald Trump’s New World Order
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  32. ^ @kann_news (22 November 2019). "נמרוד ריידר זכה במדליית הזהב השנייה של ישראל באליפות העולם בג'יו ג'יטסו באבו דאבי. בעקבות הזכייה - שוב הושמעה "התקווה" על אדמת איחוד האמירויות. גם המדליסט הירדני עמד על הפודיום בעת ההמנון. ישראלי נוסף, רועי דגן, זכה במדליית ארד בקטגוריית משקל עד 94 ק"ג" (Tweet) (in Hebrew) – via Twitter.
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  47. ^ "Donald Trump's New World Order". The New Yorker. 18 June 2018. Recently, coöperation among Israel and the Gulf states has expanded into the Sinai Peninsula, where M.B.Z. has deployed Emirati forces to train and assist Egyptian troops who have been fighting militants with help from Israeli military aircraft and intelligence agencies. U.A.E. forces have, on occasion, conducted counterterrorism missions in Sinai.
  48. ^