UAE issues decree formally ending Israel boycott, allows economic deals

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The ruler of the United Arab Emirates issued Saturday a decree formally ending the country’s boycott of Israel amid a U.S.-brokered deal to normalize relations between the two countries.

The deal opening up relations between Israel and the UAE was announced Aug. 13. It required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians.

The state-run WAM news agency said the move formally ending the boycott was made on the orders of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the Emirates’ leader.

WAM said the new decree allows Israelis and Israeli firms to do business in the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. It also allows for the purchase and trade of Israeli goods.

“The decree of the new law comes within the UAE’s efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel,” WAM said. It lays out “a roadmap toward launching joint cooperation, leading to bilateral relations by stimulating economic growth and promoting technological innovation.”

On Monday, the first direct commercial flight by Israel’s flagship carrier El Al is expected in Abu Dhabi, carrying U.S. and Israeli officials including U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The decree formally eliminates a 1972 law on the UAE’s books since just after the country’s formation. That law mirrored the widely held stance by Arab nations at that time that recognition of Israel would only come after the Palestinians had an independent state of their own.

The UAE is becoming the third Arab nation after Egypt and Jordan to currently have diplomatic relations with Israel. However, while widespread public distrust of Israel persists in those nations, the UAE never fought a war against Israel, nor did it have a historic Jewish population.

In recent years, the UAE has held quiet talks with Israel and allowed Israelis with second passports into the country for trade and talks.

Sheikh Khalifa has ruled the UAE since 2004. He suffered a stroke on Jan. 24, 2014, and underwent emergency surgery. He has been rarely seen since in public, though state media typically publishes images of him around Islamic holidays.

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has served as the UAE’s day-to-day ruler since Sheikh Khalifa’s stroke. Sheikh Mohammed has focused on increasing the Emirates’ military might amid his suspicions of Iran — an enmity shared by Israel.

While Sheikh Khalifa holds the title of president, the UAE is governed by autocratic sheikhs. Abu Dhabi, as the country’s oil-rich capital, has grown increasingly powerful since the UAE’s founding in 1971 despite each sheikhdom largely governing its own affairs.

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