In the words of Minister of Infrastructure Uzi Landau, a splinter has been made in the ice of Israeli relations with the United Arab Emerites (UAE) as he became the first Israeli minister to visit that country. The minister was attending a conference of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) held in Abu Dhabi and was only actually allowed into the country because of UAE's agreement to let all members of IRENA attend.
It is difficult to see how this visit, which was for the purpose of attending an international meeting, and which saw the minister confined to his hotel for much of his visit is a "splinter" in the ice. Minister Landau suggests that because he was in UAE discussing common interests in renewable energy there is a basis for further discussions on issues of common interest. The reality, however, if that he was not in the UAE to speak to the Emeriti government but to speak to an international conference. Indeed, the UAE was firm that Landau's presence at this meeting did not represent the start of Israeli-Emeriti diplomatic relations.
On the other hand, Israeli delegations (at lower levels) have been to the UAE to attend previous meetings of IRENA and it is difficult to imagine that there were no bilateral meetings of any kind between visiting Israeli officials and their hosts. If even for the purpose of negotiating the logistics of Israeli participation in the meeting, contacts must have taken place at some level. Perhaps it is these, initial low-level dealings, combined with the mutual interests of renewable energy that Landau claimed to be his splinter.
Certainly, there is no ill that could come from the Minister's visit to the UAE and if the result is a low level relationship such as the one with Oman or Qatar, even over time, then the crack in the ice of relations between these countries will widen. There is no obvious reason for the UAE and for Israel to be enemies. Hopefully, Landau is right and his visit could be one of the first chips away at the stone.
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