Israeli Prime Minister announces ‘cooperation’ with UAE to combat coronavirus | Palestine News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will join forces with the United Arab Emirates in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, despite the lack of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“This collaboration will be in the areas of research and development and technology, in areas that will improve health security throughout the region,” Netanyahu said in a statement Thursday.

Netanyahu said a formal announcement about joint work with the UAE to deal with the coronavirus was imminent and that it would be done by the UAE and Israel’s health ministers.

The announcement comes at a time of strong Arab opposition to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, territories that are an integral part of a state that the Palestinians have long sought.

Annexation of the Jordan Valley of Israel explained (2:01)

Last week, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said he could work with Israel in some areas, including the battle against the coronavirus and technology, despite political differences.

Addressing a military ceremony in southern Israel, Netanyahu said the effort derived from intense contacts with the UAE in recent months.

The UAE’s state news agency WAM confirmed that two companies from the United Arab Emirates will work with two Israeli companies on medical projects, including those to combat the new coronavirus.

Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Arab countries in the Gulf, but common concerns about Iran’s regional influence have led to a limited thaw in relations.

In May, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad made the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel, bringing coronavirus-related aid to the Palestinians.

At a conference by the American Jewish Committee advocacy group on June 16, Gargash said Israel cannot hope to normalize relations with Arab countries if it annexes West Bank land. He also said that cooperation with Israel in the COVID-19 pandemic would not affect the UAE’s opposition to annexation.

Israel is due to start a cabinet debate on July 1 on the extension of Israeli sovereignty to illegally built Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The US-backed plan has sparked Palestinian anger and has faced growing opposition from much of the international community.

The UN and the Arab League ask Israel to withdraw the annexation plans (2:52)

Al Jazeera and news agencies