Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was on a surprise visit to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, a snap trip that came as efforts to salvage a deal over Iran’s nuclear program were stalled amid a deepening standoff with Tehran.
The visit was Bennett’s second public trip to Abu Dhabi since Israel and the UAE agreed to normalize ties in 2020 after years of quiet cooperation, mainly over their shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
A statement from Bennett’s office said the Israeli leader will meet the UAE’s president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and that the two will discuss “various regional issues.” Iran is likely to top the agenda.
Bennett tweeted about the trip and made an embarrassing mistake, perhaps due to the dissolution of his office in the past month, especially his spokesperson. He mistakenly tweeted, alongside his picture with the foreign minister, that he had met the Emirates president, Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed.
“I recently arrived in Abu Dhabi to meet my friend, President Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayd, and express my condolences to the royal family on the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayd,” Bennett wrote, tweeting a picture showing him shaking the hand of the Emirati Foreign Minister.
An account operated by a Hebrew-speaking person in the UAE tweeted in response: “This is Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister of the UAE.”
הגעתי לפני זמן קצר לאבו דאבי כדי לפגוש את ידידי, הנשיא שייח' מוחמד בן זאיד, ולהביע את תנחומיי בפני משפחת המלוכה על פטירתו של השייח' ח'ליפה בן זאיד.
אנחנו בונים היום עוד קומה בקשר המיוחד בינינו, למען הצמיחה והביטחון של שתי האומות יחד 🇮🇱🇦🇪 pic.twitter.com/MtCkgmK1t0
— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) June 9, 2022
Following the tweet, Bennett’s spokesperson tweeted a message stating: “In the photo: Being greeted by the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah Ben Zayed.”
In a video statement recorded before departing, Bennett commended countries at an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna on Wednesday who voted to censure Iran over its transparency about nuclear activities at three undeclared sites in the country.
“We see here a firm stance by the countries of the world regarding the distinction between good and evil, as they clearly state that Iran is concealing things. We will not let up on this issue,” he said before boarding a plane to the UAE.
The IAEA said Thursday Iran plans to ramp up its uranium enrichment, with the installation of advanced centrifuges.
Bennett’s visit takes place amid political chaos and the imminent dissolution of the coalition, with reports on Thursday saying that Yamina MK Nir Orbach has made a decision to resign from the coalition.
BREAKING: 🇮🇱 Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with 🇦🇪 UAE FM Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi. He will then meet with new President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. That such Arab-Israeli summits are now commonplace is a miracle that we should not take for granted. pic.twitter.com/bAC3KeYJEL
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) June 9, 2022
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(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)