Israel has announced its participation in World Expo that will take place in 2020 in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, The Times of Israel reported Thursday. According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, participation in the event is "another expression of Israel's rising status in the world and the region."
Commenting on the announcement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it welcomed "the opportunity to share our spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship and to present Israeli innovations and trailblazing technology in various fields such as water, medicine and information technology."
Dubai organizers said they invited "every country in the world without exception," adding the Expo will be "a truly international event." The United Arab Emirates still do not officially recognize Israel as a state. However, earlier in March, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash called for a "strategic shift" in Israel-Arab ties, calling the boycott of Israel a "very, very wrong decision."
"For more than 170 years, World Expos have been apolitical events focused on furthering humanity for the common good through innovation, cultural exchange, creativity and collaboration. We are proud to continue that tradition," the organizers said in a statement.
World Expo 2010 in Shanghai drew a whopping 73 million visitors, while Expo 2015 in Milan drew some 21 million, The Times of Israel report notes. Dubai organizers expect their event will attract approximately 25 million visitors between October 2020 and April 2021.
Despite their lack of diplomatic relations — and sometimes absence thereof — Arab states, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have recently become noticeably closer to Israel over their mutual attempts to counter Iran in the region. Israeli officials, including the prime minister himself, have been actively travelling across the Arabian Peninsula, negotiating major infrastructure projects. Tel Aviv has also established cultural and sports ties with its neighbors, with Israeli judo fighter Sagi Muki winning a Grand Slam tournament in Abu Dhabi, prompting the Israeli anthem to be played on the peninsula for first time, the Times report says.
Russia competed to hold World Expos 2020 and 2025, but lost to the Emirates and Japan.