Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have signed an agreement for closer cooperation and investment between the 2 nations, including a visa exemption deal for citizens of both countries.
This will allow visa-free travel for Israeli citizens traveling to the UAE and for Emirati nationals visiting Israel.
The Israel-UAE deal comes into effect as direct flights between the 2 countries commence operations. Both states hope to boost business and tourism by building stronger ties between them. This is expected to facilitate travel and tourism as well as the exchange of goods, technology, and services throughout the Middle East.
Why Did the UAE Sign a Deal with Israel?
Diplomatic relations between Israel and the Emirates have been historically fraught with tension, but since the “Abraham Accords” — a US-brokered peace agreement — was signed in September, a new era of cooperation seems to have arrived.
The UAE is not alone in establishing diplomatic ties with Israel. Bahrain also signed the peace accord and normalized relations with the world’s only Jewish state. While Egypt and Jordan also have agreements with Israel, the UAE is unique in having a visa exemption deal.
The new diplomatic ties are likely part of a move by Middle Eastern countries, along with the United States, to counter the growing economic power of Iran in the region. The strength of cooperation between Israel, the UAE, and other nearby states will have a balancing effect and help the economies of each to compete with their rivals.
In addition, both Israel and the UAE will benefit from peace, shared knowledge and technology, and the boon of a tourism boost with visa-free travel.
The New Israel-UAE Agreements
The visa waiver agreement between the UAE and Israel was one of 4 agreements signed during a historic first high-level diplomatic visit from the Emirati government to Tel Aviv.
A number of senior UAE officials, including Emirati Finance Minister Obaid Humaid al-Tayer, landed in Ben-Gurion Airport from Abu Dhabi, where they were greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Also present was US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who was overseeing the deal on behalf of the United States.
In a speech, Netanyahu thanked UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and US President Donald Trump for the parts they played in making the new agreements a reality. He declared:
“Today we are making history. The enthusiasm for this peace agreement among our people is enormous. It’s real, it’s broad, it’s deep, and it reflects the potential that is realized today.”
Following Netanyahu’s speech, delegates from both Israel and the UAE signed agreements to uphold the following actions:
- Cooperate in science and technology innovation
- Promote and protect international investments between the 2 countries
- Permit visa-free travel for citizens of Israel and the UAE to the other country
- Cooperate in matters of aviation, including 28 passenger flights and 10 cargo flights weekly
The Future of Visa-Free Travel Between Israel and the UAE
On the subject of the visa exemption deal, Netanyahu said: “We’re exempting our nationals from visas. This will offer a huge boost for business, for tourism, for people-to-people contacts.”
However, taking advantage of visa-free travel between Israel and the United Arab Emirates may have to wait, with both countries maintaining travel restrictions due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Individuals planning to travel should keep up-to-date with travel news and check global visa requirements to make sure they comply with the current rules.
Once international travel regulations have returned to normal, citizens of Israel and the UAE will be able to benefit from this historic scheme and travel between the countries without having to apply for a visa.