JERUSALEM: In an historic first visit by a Gulf Arab nation, a UAE delegation arrived in Israel on Tuesday to cement the normalisation deal signed last month.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other American officials accompanied the delegation on an Etihad Airways aircraft from Abu Dhabi to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
They were given a red carpet welcome by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Finance Minister Israel Katz.
“We are making history in a way that will stand for generations,” Netanyahu said.
“I think that the visit of such a high level delegation from the UAE…will show our peoples, the region and the entire world the benefit of having friendly, peaceful and normal exchanges.”
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, described Tuesday’s UAE visit as “shameful”.
Speaking in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, he said it came amid Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.
“The bilateral agreements that were announced today and the delegations that come and go, all of that offers the occupation a strength to escalate its aggression and its crimes against the Palestinian people and increases its intransigence and arrogance,” he said.
In Gaza, Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for the Islamist group Hamas, said: “Such a visit will only encourage the occupation to pursue the gradual annexation of West Bank lands,” he added.