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Israel’s Bennett on ‘Historic’ Visit to UAE to Strengthen Ties Amid Iran Nuclear Talks

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Haim Zach / GPO

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived on Sunday in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a visit to meet the country’s de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, marking the first official trip by an Israeli leader.

“I am happy to depart on this historic visit. We’re going to be discussing ways to further our cooperation in a number of fields, especially strengthening our economic and commercial ties,” Bennett said before embarking on the plane to Abu Dhabi.

“In just one year since normalizing our relationship, we have already seen the extraordinary potential of the Israel-UAE partnership,” he continued. “Together, we have a real opportunity to create a stable, prosperous and stronger Middle East. This is just the beginning.”

Bennett was received at the royal airport in Abu Dhabi on Sunday by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and an honor guard, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office stated. He plans to meet Monday with Crown Prince bin Zayed, the top diplomat’s brother, on the deepening of ties — especially on economic and regional issues — aimed at increasing prosperity and strengthening stability between the two countries.

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The prime minister’s visit comes just a week after UAE senior national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al Nahyan met in Iran with his counterpart and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to move past recent difficulties and improve cooperation.

The Israeli outlet Israel Hayom reported Sunday that the rapprochement has lately led Israel to rebuff efforts from the Emirates to purchase its Iron Dome missile defense systems.

Bennet’s trip also arrives on the heels of the rocky start of the seventh round of indirect talks between Tehran and the world powers in Vienna to broker a return to the 2015 nuclear deal. Western officials had in recent days voiced discontent about Iran’s demands for saving the nuclear pact, with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Sunday warning Tehran that this was the “last chance” for its negotiators to come to the table in good faith.

Last week, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with US officials in Washington to discuss worst-case scenarios, including a military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, should diplomatic efforts for a new accord fail.

Israel has over the past year normalized ties with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, as part of the so-called Abraham Accords. Bilateral trade between Israel and the UAE is expected to grow to more than $1 trillion over the next decade from around $700 million since the signing of the peace agreement, according to UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla Bin Touq.

The UAE sees renewable energy opportunities in Israel as well as investments coming from recently signed agreements on food and agri-tech technologies. In November, OurCrowd became the first Israeli venture capital fund to receive a license to operate in the UAE from Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the marquee international financial center in Abu Dhabi.

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