UAE and Israel ambassadors get together for coffee

  • UAEIsraeliAmbassador2
Israeli Ambassador Lior Keinan and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador Mahash Saeed Alhameli met for the first time last week to celebrate the Abraham Accords signed between their two countries. Their meeting was held at the UAE embassy in Pretoria on 30 September.
by TALI FEINBERG | Oct 08, 2020

When the SA Jewish Report contacted Alhameli after the meeting, he was delighted to hear from the newspaper as a first step to engaging with the broader South African Jewish community.

He said the meeting with Keinan was of historic importance to him as it was vital to connect with “our brothers and sisters” after the signing of the Accords. “It has been over 25 years since the last peace accord was signed with an Arab nation. The normalisation of ties between the two nations is a new narrative of hope, dialogue, and prosperity in the Middle East,” he says.

Alhameli believes in “working together in South Africa to strengthen relations between our communities and South Africa in the areas of the economy, social development, cultural integration, and many other issues”.

He sees the Accords as a “people to people” agreement that will expand into business, economic, social, and cultural co-operation. Calling Israel a “partner state”, he said the countries, as well as Jews and Arabs, had much in common. Envisaging peace and stability across the Middle East, “There are no limits in co-operation between us.”

Alhameli says the embassies hope to partner on numerous initiatives in a variety of spheres, such as cultural events or business expos. One such example is the upcoming Dubai World Expo from October 2021 to March 2022. An event so large it has been compared to the Olympics, Alhameli hopes that this new partnership with Israel will allow the Jewish community to be part of the expo. “We encourage the business community to get involved,” he says.

In 2021, the UAE is celebrating its Golden Jubilee. “In looking at what we have achieved in 50 years, it’s indicative of a nation that believes in the future and the importance of prosperity, science, and innovation as well as cutting through barriers,” he says.

For Keinan, “It was marvellous to have a meeting like this. It was definitely a historic moment. I meet regularly with other diplomats, but this is the first time I have met with the representative of a country that we have just made peace with. It was festive, and great to connect with a colleague from the Middle East.

“Both sides were very happy to arrange the meeting after the signing ceremony at the White House,” says the ambassador. “It felt like an immediately close relationship. We were very comfortable, nothing was difficult, from arranging the meeting to the conversation itself.”

While he won’t reveal the details of a private meeting, he says he and Alhameli spoke over coffee, were introduced to each other, and were informed about each embassy’s activities in South Africa.

“The feeling was that this is a mutual first step, and we will take further steps,” says Keinan. “We will see what we can do together, and how our staff can work together, embassy to embassy. It was a first meeting, and hopefully not the last. I look forward to future co-operation between our embassies and nations.”

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