DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Telephone calls began ringing Sunday between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, marking the first concrete step of a U.S.-brokered diplomatic deal between the nations that required Israel to halt plans to annex land sought by the Palestinians.
Anger over the deal however continued as well, with protesters in Pakistan criticizing the UAE and Iran making new threats about the accord, which will see the Emirates become only the third Arab nation to currently recognize Israel. The UAE responded by summoning Iran’s chargé d’affairs to criticize earlier comments by Iran’s president it described as threatening.
But for Dubai’s small expatriate Jewish community, which has worshipped for years at an unmarked villa in this city-state, the calls represented so much more than just the convenience of being able to directly dial loved ones in Israel.
“There’s a sense of a miracle upon a miracle upon a miracle, as all of these hurdles fall away and people at last can come together and start talking,” Ross Kriel, the president of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, told The Associated Press.
Direct telephone calls have been blocked in the Emirates, a U.S.-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, since its founding in 1971. That backed the standing position of Arab nations at the time, that Israel must first grant concessions to the Palestinians before being recognized — one of their few points of leverage.