UAE formally ends Israel boycott amid US-brokered deal

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Women wearing face masks against the coronavirus walk past United Arab Emirates and Israeli flags at the Peace Bridge in Netanya, Israel, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. The UAE flag was displayed to celebrate last week's announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to establish full diplomatic relations. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

DUBAI – The ruler of the United Arab Emirates issued a decree Saturday formally ending the country's boycott of Israel amid a U.S.-brokered deal to normalize relations between the two countries.

The announcement now allows trade and commerce between the UAE, home to oil-rich Abu Dhabi and skyscraper-studded Dubai, and Israel, home to a thriving diamond trade, pharmaceutical companies and tech start-ups.

The announcement further cements the Aug 13 deal opening up relations between the two nations, which required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians. But Palestinians so far have criticized the accord as undercutting one of its few bargaining chips with Israelis in moribund peace negotiations.

The state-run WAM news agency said the decree formally ending the boycott came on the orders of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the Emirates' leader.

WAM said the new decree allows Israelis and Israeli firms to do business in the UAE, a U.S.-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. It also allows for the purchase and trade of Israeli goods.

“The decree of the new law comes within the UAE’s efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel,” WAM said. It lays out “a road map toward launching joint cooperation, leading to bilateral relations by stimulating economic growth and promoting technological innovation.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the decree. “This is an important step toward advancing peace and prosperity in the region," he said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a statement the UAE decision “is an important step towards peace, which will yield substantial economic and commercial achievements for both people while strengthening the stability in the region."