Dec 15, 2021 - World

Israeli prime minister makes first-ever visit to UAE

Bennett (L) is welcomed to the palace by MBZ. Photo: Israeli government handout via Getty

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to Abu Dhabi this week was a signal from both sides that the relationship is continuing to develop one year after the Abraham Accords, regardless of the change in government in Israel.

Why it matters: It was the first public visit by an Israeli prime minister to the United Arab Emirates. Both sides wanted to stress the personal connection between Bennett and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), who met for five hours, mostly one-on-one, at MBZ's palace.

  • A day earlier, Bennett was received with full honors at the airport by Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed.
  • Bennett invited MBZ to visit Israel and he accepted the invitation, Israeli officials say

Between the lines: The visit also came amid a sensitive dialogue between the UAE and Iran in an attempt to de-escalate regional tensions.

  • Emirati national security adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan attended the meeting with Bennett after returning last week from a rare visit to Tehran.
  • While Iran was discussed, both sides tried to keep the focus on the deepening bilateral relationship.
  • The Iranian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, slammed the UAE for allowing the leader of a “regime that undermines regional security” to visit and warned against allowing Israel to strengthen its presence in the Gulf.

Worth noting: The visit took place at a time when the UAE is threatening to cancel its F-35 deal with the U.S. over the long delays. According to the WSJ, the U.S. is concerned about safeguarding the advanced technology from Chinese spying.

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