Emirati media says both sides will work together on medical projects, including those to combat virus new, at a time of strong Arab opposition to Israel's plans to annex parts of occupied West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to attend a graduation ceremony in Beersheba,Israel on June 25, 2020.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to attend a graduation ceremony in Beersheba,Israel on June 25, 2020. (AFP)

Israel and the United Arab Emirates will cooperate in the fight against the coronavirus, the two countries have said, in a possible boost to Israeli efforts to normalise relations with Gulf Arab countries.

Two private companies from the United Arab Emirates and two Israeli companies will work together on medical projects, including those to combat the new coronavirus, the UAE's state-run news agency WAM said on Thursday. 

The cooperation comes at a time of strong Arab opposition to Israel's plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank — territory Palestinians seek for a state — under a US "compromise" plan.

READ MORE: How did Arab states get from recognition to normalisation with Israel?

Scientific and medical partnership

Israel has no diplomatic relations with Arab countries in the Gulf, but common concerns about Iran's regional influence have led to a limited thaw in relations.

"This scientific and medical partnership overcomes historical and political challenges in the region," an Arabic statement from WAM said, adding that the priority was humanitarian action and constructive cooperation to safeguard people's health.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said that a formal announcement about the partnership was imminent.

Last week, the UAE's minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said it could work with Israel on some areas, including the battle against the coronavirus and on technology, despite political differences.

Netanyahu said at a military ceremony that Israel and the UAE would collaborate in research and development and technology "to improve the well-being of the entire region".

He said the agreement stemmed from intensive contacts with the UAE over recent months.

READ MORE: Is the UAE going public with its controversial ties to Israel?

The UAE has officially reported more than 45,000 cases, including 302 deaths.
The UAE has officially reported more than 45,000 cases, including 302 deaths. (AFP)

UAE opposed to annexation

Israel has confirmed more than 22,000 cases of coronavirus, including over 300 deaths, since reporting its first infection in February, and is now facing a new spike.

The UAE has officially reported more than 45,000 cases, including 302 deaths.

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

But the aid was refused by the Palestinians as the UAE had coordinated with Israel rather than with the Palestinian Authority.

Speaking to a conference of the American Jewish Committee advocacy group on June 16, Gargash said Israel cannot expect to normalise relations with the Arab world if it annexes West Bank land. 

He also said cooperation with Israel on the pandemic would not affect the UAE's opposition to annexation.

Israel is due on July 1 to begin a cabinet debate on extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

READ MORE: Is the UAE's call for Israel rapprochement a betrayal of Palestinians?

Source: TRTWorld and agencies