Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid Credits Netanyahu as 'Architect' of Nation's UAE Deal

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid credited Israel's former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the "architect" of the nation's deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to the Associated Press.

Lapid referred to the deal made nine months ago, known as the "Abraham Accords," that established relations between Israel and the UAE while speaking to diplomats at the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi. His arrival to the UAE marks the first highest-level visit by an Israeli official.

"This moment is his, no less than it is ours," Lapid said of Netanyahu while referring to the recent partnership between his country and the UAE that was brokered by former U.S. President Donald Trump's administration.

Netanyahu and Trump both viewed the deal as a part of their greatest achievements as country leaders. The former prime minister wanted to visit Abu Dhabi before his 12-year rule as Israel's leader ended earlier this June.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, chats with Minister of State to the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, right, upon arrival in Abu Dhabi Airport on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Lapid credited Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the "architect" of Israel's deal with the UAE. Israeli Prime Ministry/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Lapid was set to meet the UAE's foreign minister in Abu Dhabi, with talks likely to focus in part on Iran, which both countries view as a top regional threat.

Soon after his arrival in the UAE, Lapid told diplomats gathered at the official opening of the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi that the moment represented "the right to determine our fate by ourselves." Israel, he said, isn't going anywhere.

"The Middle East is our home. We're here to stay. We call on all the countries of the region to recognize that. And to come talk to us," he said, according to the speech released by Israel's Foreign Ministry. Press access to Lapid's various events in the UAE has been limited to Emirati media and select Israeli outlets traveling with the minister.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Lapid's visit as "significant for Israel, the UAE, and the broader region." In a statement, he said the U.S. will work with Israel and the UAE to strengthen all aspects of the partnership.

Netanyahu repeatedly tried to score a lightning trip to Abu Dhabi to capitalize on the normalization deal his government signed and boost his reelection campaign.

Underpinning UAE-Israel ties is shared concern that Iran's nuclear deal with world powers did not go far enough to curb Tehran's reach in the region. The reservations by both countries about the deal helped propel quiet ties, long before they formally announced full diplomatic relations last year.

President Joe Biden, however, is pushing to revive and expand the nuclear accord, which Trump pulled the U.S. out of in 2018. Earlier this week, Lapid was quoted as saying that Israel has serious reservations about the nuclear deal being discussed in Vienna, but pledged Israel would make its objections privately.

In the few months since establishing ties, the UAE and Israel have rapidly expanded bilateral trade and signed investment deals, including in gas, technology and other sectors. More than 200,000 Israeli tourists have traveled to the UAE, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has said. Many of those visits have been to Dubai, which is open to tourists.

"There's been years of under-the-radar relations between Israel and the UAE, and we are now enjoying the fruits of the infrastructure of peace that we've built in the last decades," said Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat.

On Wednesday, Lapid will inaugurate Israel's consulate in Dubai and visit the Israeli pavilion at the site of the World Fair's Expo in Dubai, which will open in October. Lapid is also due to meet with members of the expatriate Jewish community residing in Dubai.

Shortly after the UAE-Israel pact was signed, the Trump administration authorized the sale of 50 advanced F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, which would make it only the second country in the Middle East, after Israel, to acquire them. The Biden administration has vowed to go ahead with the sale of the jets and advanced armed drones.

The UAE's decision to normalize ties with Israel marked the first time in over two decades an Arab state had established relations with Israel, following Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, respectively. It was quickly followed by Bahrain, with similar announcements made later by Sudan and Morocco.

The Biden administration has expressed support for these pacts, but has also said they are no substitute for engaging on issues between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinians across the political spectrum have slammed the UAE's ties with Israel in the absence of peace talks or concessions toward a two-state solution.

Lapid's visit to the UAE comes barely six weeks after an 11-day war in the Gaza Strip that killed 254 Palestinians. In Israel, 13 people died as a result of the conflict.

Emotions ran high among the Arab public across the Gulf, particularly in the lead-up to the conflict when Israeli forces skirmished with Palestinian protesters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in the final days of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The site in east Jerusalem is holy to both Jews and Muslims.

The tensions in Jerusalem drew rare public rebuke from the Emirati government, which has continued to deepen its newfound public ties with Israel. The UAE's tone on the conflict changed in public statements after Hamas began firing rockets at Israel. The UAE considers Hamas as an Iran-backed militant group and an offshoot of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

It took nine months for the visit to take place, largely because Israel's new government was only sworn in earlier this month.

Lapid, who heads the centrist Yesh Atid party, struck a power-sharing deal with the ideologically hawkish, right-wing Naftali Bennett, who became Israel's prime minister at the head of a coalition of eight diverse parties.

 Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid UAE Visit
In this photo made available by the Israeli Government Press Office, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, second left, attends the inauguration of the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday. Israel’s new foreign minister is in the UAE on the first high-level trip by an Israeli official to the Gulf Arab state since the two countries normalized relations last year. Shlomi Amsalem/Government Press Office via AP