In what will be Israel’s first such waiver with an Arab state, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are set to sign a visa exemption treaty on Tuesday.
In the first official UAE visit to Israel since the normalization of their relations, they agreed to ease travel and upgrade West Bank checkpoints.
This means that citizens from both countries will be allowed to enter each other’s territories without having to go through the hassle of applying for a visa first.
The agreement will enter into force only after it is ratified by both countries, a process that will require a vote in the Knesset.
With their economies deteriorating due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE and Israel are aiming for saving their economic sector by the normalization deal.
“Visa-free travel will offer a huge boost for business and tourism,” Netanyahu vowed shortly after greeting the UAE delegation at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv.
Treasury Secretary of the United States Steven Mnuchin, who brokered the new diplomatic relationship stated that: “These ties create a tremendous foundation for economic growth, opportunity, innovation, and prosperity.”
However, Palestinians called it implicit cooperation to the Israeli occupation. The Palestinians had always depended on Arab solidarity to refuse Israel such normalization until they had achieved statehood.
Palestine Liberation Organization senior member Wassel Abu Youssef told AFP that the Emirati-Israeli visa exemption was “another stab in the back” for the Palestinian rights.
Palestinians’ reactions were that of anger and bitterness, pointing out that Israel would now let Emiratis visit Israel and Jerusalem with absolute freedom while they don’t have that right in their own occupied country.
Residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are still restricted in their freedom to commute in the country.
They are forced to submit to a daily unmeasurable permitting process, including long security checks, before getting permission to step foot in their native cities or in Muslim holy sites like the Aqsa mosque compound.
Besides the UAE, Israel has peace deals with neighboring Egypt and Jordan. However, it requires citizens of both countries (Egypt and Jordan) to obtain visas before entry.