UAE scraps Israel boycott law in new step towards normal ties 

A tourist bends down to take a picture in front of the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab luxury hotel in Dubai. (AP pic)

DUBAI: The president of the United Arab Emirates scrapped an economic boycott against Israel, allowing trade and financial agreements between the countries, in another key step towards normal ties, the UAE’s state news agency reported on Saturday.

Israel and the UAE said on Aug 13 they would normalise diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by US President Donald Trump that reshapes the order of Middle East politics from the Palestinian issue to the fight against Iran.

President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued a decree abolishing a boycott law as part of “the UAE’s efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel, leading to bilateral relations by stimulating economic growth and promoting technological innovation,” the WAM news agency said.

The announcement came as Israeli flag carrier El Al Israel Airlines Ltd prepared to operate the country’s first direct flight between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi.

An Israeli government delegation and top aides to Trump, including his senior adviser Jared Kushner, are due to travel on the flight on Aug 31, a US official said.

Before the Aug 13 deal can be officially signed, details must be agreed on issues such as the opening embassies, trade and travel links.

In Tel Aviv, Israeli Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster said Israel was working on potential joint projects that could help improve the oil-rich Gulf nation’s food security, such as water desalination and crop cultivation in the desert.

“With their money and our experience, we could go a long way,” he told a local radio station in an interview broadcast on Friday. “Our job is to ensure that this fantastic mood is turned into reality.”

Due to the presidential decree announced on Saturday, UAE citizens and businesses will be free to do business with Israel, including trade and financial transactions.

“Following the abolition of the Israel boycott law, individuals and companies in the UAE may enter into agreements with bodies or individuals residing in Israel or belonging to it by their nationality, in terms of commercial, financial operations, or any other dealings of any nature,” WAM quoted the decree as saying.

Still, Israel and the UAE do not yet have official air links, and it was unclear whether Monday’s El Al flight would be able to fly over Saudi Arabia — which has no official ties with Israel — to cut down on flight time.

In May, an Etihad Airways plane flew from the UAE to Tel Aviv to deliver supplies to the Palestinians to help fight coronavirus, marking the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel.