Following the historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the UAE has unblocked phone calls to Israel and unblocked Israeli websites for the first time, Israeli officials said on Sunday.
Israeli news websites that had previously been blocked by UAE authorities, like the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post and YNet, could be accessed without using means to bypass internet filtering in the Emirates.
In the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, a recorded message in Arabic and English would typically play prior to Sunday saying calls to +972 numbers could not be connected. The advent of internet calling allowed people to get around the ban, though these too were often interrupted.
Some in Israel used Palestinian mobile phone numbers with +970 numbers, which those in the UAE could call.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his UAE counterpart, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, spoke on the phone on Sunday for the first time since the UAE unblocked Israeli numbers earlier that day, UAE Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hend Al Otaiba announced.
Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs told Walla News on Friday that the UAE does not view the normalization of ties agreement with Israel as simply symbolic but wishes to implement the agreement in practical ways as soon as possible.
HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE FM and HE Gabi Ashkenazi, Israeli FM, today inaugurated a phone link between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel, and exchanged greetings following the historic Peace Accord signed by the two countries. pic.twitter.com/3DC5tLV8J0— هند مانع العتيبة Hend Al Otaiba (@hend_mana) August 16, 2020
“We understood that not having any ties with Israel is not healthy,” Gargash said. “A year or two ago we realized that it is possible to disagree on political issues but still cooperate on many other issues.
Gargash said that the UAE would like to cooperate and partner with Israel in many areas, including agriculture, food security, cyber defense, tourism, technology. “I am sure Israelis also have a list,” Gargash said. “We are the two largest economies in the region.”
The Emirati APEX National Investment company and Israel’s Tera Group already signed an agreement over the weekend to cooperate on COVID-19 research and development.
“The United Arab Emirates and Israel will immediately expand and accelerate cooperation regarding the treatment of and the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus,” the UAE and Israel said on Thursday in a joint statement.