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Tel Aviv city hall lit up in the colors of the UAE. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates on Sunday unblocked Israeli websites and direct international phone lines with Israel in a first step following the U.S.-brokered normalization deal announced last week, Israeli officials said.

Why it matters: The U.S. and Israel have tried for years to get the UAE and other Gulf states to establish direct phone service. The Obama administration asked the UAE to do so in support of special envoy George Mitchell’s peace initiative and again during Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative, but the UAE refused.

Between the lines: This move was in the works for several weeks and was pushed by Israel foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Israeli officials told me. Officials see it as a positive sign that the UAE wants to move quickly in turning the normalization announcement into practical steps.

  • Ashkenazi spoke Sunday with his Emirati counterpart Abdullah Bin Zayed to inaugurate the opening of direct phone services.
  • The UAE foreign ministry said both ministers stressed their commitment to implementing the normalization deal. The Israeli foreign ministry said Ashkenazi and Bin Zayed agreed to establish a channel of communication and meet as soon as possible.

The fact that the phone call was made public is also important.

  • Previous Israeli foreign ministers had a relationship with their Emirati counterparts, but their phone calls were kept secret and were even placed under a gag order by Israeli military censors.
  • This is the first time both Israel and the UAE have issued press statements about the phone call.

Go deeper: How the Israel-UAE deal came together

Go deeper

Updated Nov 24, 2020 - World

Tracking Biden's first calls to world leaders

Combination images of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: NZ Prime Minister's Office/Instagram/Joe Raedle/Getty Images

One ritual of becoming president-elect is the carousel of congratulatory phone calls with other world leaders.

What to watch: The order in which the calls are returned is watched closely around the world.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

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