It was unthinkable a few months ago, but now Dubai is the most popular travel destination for Israeli tourists. Tens of thousands of Israelis look out in the United Arab Emirates, the new ally. Earlier this year, the countries tighten diplomatic ties.
“ Its great to be a Jew and an Israeli in an Islamic and Arab country,” says tour leader Itzik Tahari. “I never expected that.” He accompanies a group of tourists on a well-groomed journey through the Emirates. “I have experienced many wars with Arab countries,” says the 64-year-old guide. “But this time Im not coming with a machine gun, but with a smile.”
In September, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which is part of Dubai, launched formal relations for the first time. As a result, air traffic between the two countries became possible, and Israelis are allowed to visit Dubai.
Last week, El Al, the national Israeli airline, was the first regular flight to Dubai. Correspondent Ties Brock was on board:
Itzik Tahari is not the only Israeli tour leader who sees opportunities in Dubai. Tour organizer Avi Fine features kosher cuisine for hundreds of Israeli guests in a wing of the chic Hyatt hotel. “And this is only the beginning,” he says.
all kinds of places in the Emirates, you can hear Hebrew on the streets and see religious Jews walking around. This is also due to the Israeli coronare rules. Until recently, the Emirates were one of the few green destinations, from which no quarantine is required. For this reason, it is estimated that more than 50 thousand Israelis travelled to Dubai.
In addition to the tourism industry, other sectors are also interested in the new relations. Israeli companies in the high-tech and weapons industries, among others, hope to do business with the Emirates. That doesnt have to happen under the radar any longer. But even more important than economic opportunities, Israels strategic interests are weighed.
Until the middle of this year, Israel had only diplomatic relations with Egypt and Jordan in the Arab world. In recent months, four countries have been joined: the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain. They see in Israel, among other things, an ally against the common enemy of Iran. As a result, Israel is becoming less and less isolated in the region.
US President Donald Trump plays an important role in promoting relations with Israel. To close the deals, he promised F-35 fighter aircraft to the Emirates, took Sudan off the terror list and was the first Western country to recognize the Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara.
For the Arab countries it was enough to say goodbye to an old starting point. So far, they have refused to recognise the State of Israel because of the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. But for more and more countries, this objection is no longer relevant.
The Palestinian leaders are looking at developments empty-eyed. They call the rapprochement with Israel a stab in the back. And when a delegation from one of the Gulf Arab States visited the holy city of Jerusalem, they were devastated by Palestinians.
other places in the Arab world, too, dealing with Israelis is still very sensitive. For example, a well-known Egyptian singer had to appear in court recently because he had been photographed with an Israeli colleague at a party in Dubai.
But in the Emirates they defend the new relations with Israel. “Why should other countries be allowed, and we cant?”, says businessman Abdulla Al-Serkal. He addresses a group of Israeli tourists at a cultural centre in Dubai. “Weve been doing business with Jews all over the world, so thats nothing new,” he says. “And the fact that we now have formal ties with Israel is a good development.”
Israelis are also pleased with the relations. Although traveling to Dubai will probably be a little less in the coming time. Due to the increasing number of corona infestations, the Israeli government decided that travellers from the Emirates should be quarantined for two weeks on their return.