Triumphant Teen Team in Dubai Robotics Marks Warming Gulf Ties

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -

Israel’s prime minister is greeting its triumphant teen delegation’s return from the unofficial “Robotics Olympics” in a groundbreaking visit to Dubai.

The team’s second place finish at the FIRST Global Challenge and the warm welcome it received from its Emirati hosts highlighted the growing, and increasingly open, relations between Israel and the Gulf Arab state.

The countries have long had back-channel security and cyber ties, mostly based on a shared enmity for regional foe Iran. Israeli businessmen and tourists have also made clandestine visits to the oil-rich federation of sheikhdoms.

But issuing formal travel visas to the Israeli robotics team and openly welcoming them added a layer of formality to the warming ties.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said the team’s visit pointed to the increasingly “above water” relations between Israel and the Gulf states.