Historic meeting between Naftali Bennett and Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan

"Partnership and friendship between us is natural," said the Israeli prime minister. The Emirates and Israel have intensified diplomatic and trade relations since the signing of the Abraham Accords a year ago
Naftali Bennett, primer ministro de Israel y Mohammed bin Zayed, príncipe heredero de Abu Dabi

PHOTO/WAM  -   Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has travelled to the United Arab Emirates in a bid to further strengthen ties with the Gulf state. Bennett met with Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, 15 months after the two nations normalised bilateral relations.

"I begin the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister to the United Arab Emirates. The potential inherent in the partnership between Israel and the UAE is enormous. Together, we have a real opportunity to create a stable, prosperous and stronger Middle East. And this is just the beginning," Bennett wrote on his Twitter account before taking off for Abu Dhabi. Although Bennett is the first Israeli minister to visit the UAE, foreign minister Yair Lapid also made a historic trip in June to inaugurate the embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai. So far, that trip was the highest-level visit by an Israeli official.

Upon his arrival, Emirati officials, led by Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, received the Hebrew leader with honours. The UAE ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja, and his Israeli counterpart, Amir Hayek, were also present during Bennett's arrival. "I appreciate your warm hospitality. It's a wonderful reception. I am very excited to be here on the first official visit of an Israeli leader," Bennett told Bin Zayed, according to the prime minister's office.  

Naftali Bennett, primer ministro de Israel y Mohammed bin Zayed, príncipe heredero de Abu Dabi
PHOTO/WAM - Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

The Israeli prime minister, before meeting the crown prince at his private palace in Abu Dhabi, gave an interview to WAM, the Emirati news agency. Bennett highlighted "trade, research, development, cyber security, health, education and aviation" as the main areas of cooperation between the two countries. "I hope that our relations will continue to be good, especially in the economic field. In my opinion, cooperation in the field of health and food security will be an important part of mutual cooperation," the prime minister told WAM. With the aim of boosting the partnership in other areas, Bennett will meet with the Emirati ministers of technology and transport.

"Partnership and friendship between us is natural," the Israeli leader said. Bennett made reference to the Abraham Accords during his interview with the Emirati agency, a historic milestone that has made this trip possible. "We are neighbours and cousins. We are grandchildren of the Prophet Abraham. The period since the signing of the Abrahamic Peace Accords is the best proof that the development of bilateral relations is a precious treasure for us and for the whole region," he added. Following the signing of the 'Agreement of the Century', other countries such as Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have followed in Abu Dhabi's footsteps.

Bennet also responded to a question about Israel's participation in Expo 2020, which is currently being held in Dubai. "The Israeli pavilion ('Towards Tomorrow') at Expo 2020 in Dubai embodies an optimistic outlook on tomorrow and a boundless quest for its betterment, not only for us, but for our friends and allies around the world in various fields, and this is a core value of Judaism." Regarding the common values with the UAE, the Israeli leader stressed "tolerance, peace and dialogue". "That is why the friendship that unites us has developed at great speed," he explained.  

PHOTO/WAM - Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

The Emirati sheikh, for his part, expressed his hope that this meeting "will move the cooperative relationship forward towards more positive steps in the interests of the people of the two nations and the region", according to WAM news agency.

Iran and its nuclear programme is one of Israel's top concerns, which is why the Persian country is also on the agenda of the meeting, although it was not mentioned by Bennett during his interview with WAM. Emirati national security adviser Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan recently travelled to Tehran, where he met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Ali Shamjani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. The Iranian leader said he "welcomed the development of relations with the United Arab Emirates", while the Emirati adviser expressed his hope that ties would "begin a new chapter".

Relations between Israel and Iran, on the other hand, are going through one of their worst moments. Benny Gantz, the Hebrew defence minister, has warned of a possible military attack on Iran, while Tehran has deployed troops in the western part of the country with the aim, according to Gantz, of "attacking countries and forces in the Middle East in general and Israel in particular". The Israeli minister has also criticised the Vienna negotiations for Iran's return to the nuclear agreement, as he considers that the Iranian regime is "playing games" to gain time and continue with the "development of its nuclear programme".