By Linda Gradstein
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is in Abu Dhabi to meet Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It is the first known visit to the United Arab Emirates by an Israeli prime minister. The issue of Iran’s nuclear program is expected to be high on the agenda.
Bennett’s visit was announced just hours before he flew to the UAE. Before departing on his trip, Bennett spoke of the potential of a deep partnership.
“I’ll be meeting with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed. We’re going to be discussing ways to further our cooperation in a number of fields, especially strengthening our economic and commercial ties. In just one year of normalizing our relationship, we’ve already seen the extraordinary potential of the Israel-UAE partnership. And this is just the beginning,” Bennet said.
Israel and the Emirates have long had close economic and security ties, but until just over a year ago, those ties were not public. Now, with the signing of U.S.-brokered agreements known as the Abraham Accords, those ties have deepened even more.
In 2020, during the administration of then-U.S. President Donald Trump, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain signed the accords at the White House, normalizing ties between Israel and the two Arab countries. Morocco and Sudan later joined the accords.
Israel’s new ambassador to the UAE, Amir Hayek, says the meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the sheikh is historic.
He said that the relationship between Israel and the UAE is, as he put it, a year-old baby who already speaks three languages and there is a lot of excitement in the UAE about Bennett’s visit.
The Israeli prime minister traveled to the UAE with a small delegation and no journalists, citing concerns about the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The issue of Iran and its nuclear program is expected to be high on the agenda. Israel and the UAE share a concern about Iran becoming a nuclear power. The meeting in the UAE comes amid tense talks between the United States and Iran on a renewed agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program which would see sanctions on Iran lifted. Bennett has continued to take a hard line on Iran.
“Iran deserves no rewards, no bargain deals and no sanctions relief in return for their brutality. I call upon our allies around the world – do not give in to Iran’s nuclear blackmail,” Bennett said.
Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The territory of the UAE is very close to Iran. Iran as a nuclear power would pose just as much of a threat to the Emirates as to Israel. Bennett’s visit is expected to deepen already close security and intelligence ties between Israel and the UAE.