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March 11, 2021 10:37 am

Israel Says Netanyahu’s First UAE Visit Postponed, Stirs Rights Spat With Jordan

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adjusts his protective face mask after receiving a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel December 19, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

An announcement by Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had postponed a first visit to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday due to a lag in Jordanian overflight rights drew a rare rebuke from Amman over a contested Jerusalem holy site.

An Abu Dhabi appearance would have allowed Netanyahu to put his imprimatur on Israel-UAE ties that were formalized last year — a foreign policy flourish as he seeks re-election on March 23.

The UAE had not formally confirmed the planned visit, which leaked to Israeli media on Wednesday. According to a statement issued by Netanyahu’s office, he and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan agreed to reschedule.

A hold-up in overflight permission from Amman for Netanyahu’s plane “apparently” stemmed from the cancellation of a visit by Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah to Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque compound on Wednesday over a dispute regarding security arrangements at the site, the statement said.

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Permission eventually came through but too late for Netanyahu’s itinerary, which included meeting his visiting Hungarian and Czech counterparts later on Thursday, it said.

Jordanian officials were not immediately available for comment on the overflight issue. But Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi confirmed the crown prince’s cancelled al Aqsa visit — which would have been the first there by Jordan’s future king.

State TV quoted Safadi as saying Israeli authorities had tried to change a program agreed with Amman in a manner that it deemed harmful to Palestinian and Muslim rights of worship.

“The crown prince did not want to allow Israel to impose restrictions on Muslims,” Safadi was quoted as saying.

Netanyahu had been due to visit the UAE and Bahrain — which also has newly established ties with Israel — last month but postponed that trip citing COVID-19 travel restrictions.

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