TEL AVIV — Israel and the United Arab Emirates are set to announce a new joint venture to combat COVID-19, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday.
“The health ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Israel will soon announce cooperation in fighting the coronavirus. This cooperation will be expressed in research and development and technology, in areas that will improve health security for the entire region,” Netanyahu said at a graduation ceremony for the Israel Air Force’s pilot course.
According to Netanyahu, the collaboration is the result of months of extensive talks that “will bring a blessing to many in our region.”
PM Netanyahu: The Health Ministers of the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel will announce cooperation in the fight against coronavirus. This cooperation will be in research and technology development, in areas that will improve the health security of the entire region
— Israel Foreign Ministry (@IsraelMFA) June 25, 2020
Emirati Foreign Affairs Minister Anwar Gargash last week told the American Jewish Committee Virtual Global Forum the Arab world’s longstanding boycott of Israel was not unproductive.
The “stonewalling and closed lines of communications” has only made the Middle East conflict worse, he said. Instead, the Arab world and Gulf states should look to built ties in a range of fields such as innovation and trade. He pointed to Egypt, Jordan and Turkey’s formal ties with Israel, and a thaw of relations between Jerusalem and Qatar and other Gulf states.
While Gargash stressed the UAE’s objection to Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank, he underlined his country’s policy of “decoupling the political from the non-political.”
At the same forum, the UAE’s Ambassador to the U.N. Lana Nusseibeh said Israeli research on treatment for COVID-19 is “very exciting” and that there was “potentially room for cooperation here.”
“I think public health space should be an unpoliticized space where we all try to pool our collective knowledge of this virus to improve the lives of many people around the world,” she said.
According to a report by Channel 12 news, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen facilitated the joint venture. The deal signed between the two countries may also include the opening of diplomatic missions, the report said. Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi do not share formal relations.
Breitbart News reported in May that the UAE, Bahrain and a third, unnamed country had reached out to Israel for help in dealing with the pandemic.
Bahrain and the UAE were already in touch with the Sheba Medical Center before the outbreak, Yoel Hareven, who heads the hospital’s international division, said. In March, a senior member of the Emirati royal family came on a private visit to the hospital.