Israeli leader set to meet with Emirati prince, highlighting growing ties

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is expected to become the first Israeli leader to pay an official visit to the United Arab Em...

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is expected to become the first Israeli leader to pay an official visit to the United Arab Emirates, after Israeli officials said he would travel to Abu Dhabi on Sunday to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the Emirati de facto leader.

The visit is the latest sign of deepening ties between Israel and parts of the Arab world, a process that accelerated in the fall of 2020 when Israel signed diplomatic agreements with four countries, including the United Arab Emirates, who had previously avoided formal relations with Israel due to its conflict with the Palestinians.

The meeting also highlighted how these 2020 agreements – which were negotiated by President Donald J. Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Bennett’s predecessor as prime minister – endured beyond the demise of the Trump administrations and Netanyahu.

By visiting Abu Dhabi, Mr. Bennett will get a foreign policy laurel that was denied to Mr. Netanyahu, who was forced to cancel three trips last winter, partly because of coronavirus restrictions and partly because Emirati leaders balked at becoming props in his re-election campaign.

Israeli cabinet ministers have since visited the Emirates, but never a prime minister.

Prince Mohammed’s invitation to Mr. Bennett underscored the the changing priorities of the Gulf countries like the United Arab Emirates, for which the threat of a nuclear Iran is now far more worrying than a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For decades, only Egypt and Jordan have maintained formal relations with Israel, with most Arab leaders preferring to delay detente until the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Having long had covert relations, the Emirates finally entered into a formal relationship with Israel in September 2020 after Israel pledged to postpone its plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. Agreements with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan quickly followed.

Since then, Emirati officials have said little about the Palestinians, with mutual fears over Iran’s nuclear program instead forming the basis of the Israeli-Emirati relationship.

The value of trade between the Emirates and Israel has also grown rapidly: in the first seven months of 2021, two-way trade amounted to over $ 600 million, according to statistics cited in September by an Israeli official – about $ 550 million more than during the equivalent period in 2020. Banks, universities, airlines and tech companies of the two countries have signed partnership agreements and their armies have conducted joint exercises . The Emirates have also set up an investment fund, worth $ 10 billion, for projects in Israel.

Relations with Bahrain and Morocco have also continued to improve, but questions have been raised about the sustainability of the deal with Sudan. Little momentum has been created since Israel and Sudan formally signed a normalization accord in January, the two countries have not exchanged ambassadors, and a recent coup in Khartoum cast doubt on the whole arrangement.

No new rapprochement has been announced since the January Sudanese deal, despite hopes that Saudi Arabia, which has close ties with the Emirates and shares an antipathy for Iran, will become the fifth country to sign. the agreements of Abraham, for the agreements are known. Mr. Netanyahu reportedly met in secret in November 2020 with Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, but Saudi officials have denied the meeting took place.

And even in the Emirates, there are signs of caution about the attention paid to its relationship with Israel. Mr Bennett’s office has invited dozens of Israel-based journalists to accompany him on his flight to Abu Dhabi, but Emirati officials have refused to hold a press conference for them or to greet them at the palace. princely. Journalists were then excluded from the mission entirely, officially due to growing concerns about the new variant of the coronavirus.

Myra Noveck contributed reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Israeli leader set to meet with Emirati prince, highlighting growing ties
Israeli leader set to meet with Emirati prince, highlighting growing ties
Newsrust - US Top News
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