Israeli PM Bennett meets with UAE Crown Prince in historic first

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Abu Dhabi to meet with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on the first trip by an Israeli prime minister to the United Arab Emirates.

Bennett was greeted by an honor guard and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.

“I’m excited to be here, on the first official visit of an Israeli leader here,” Bennett said. “We look forward to strengthening the relations between the countries.”

Bennett said on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport that Israel-UAE relations are “excellent and extensive,” and called to “nurture and strengthen them, and build the warm peace between the two nations.”

Relations between Israel and the UAE were officially established in August 2020, in what became known as the Abraham Accords.

The meeting comes at an important juncture for relations between the countries, which grew closer in the years before the accords were signed, over shared concern about the Iranian nuclear threat.

Other than the topic of Iran, Bennett and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed plan to discuss “economic and regional issues that will contribute to the prosperity, welfare and strengthening the stability between the two countries,” read the Prime Minister’s Office statement.

Economic ties are a big part of Israel and the UAE’s new relations, including the launching of negotiations toward a free trade agreement last month. Trade in goods between the countries surpassed $500 million in 2021, up from $125m. in 2020.

Due to the spread of the Omicron variant of corona, the prime minister’s trip will be more limited than originally planned, with the meeting with MBZ the only item on the agenda. Bennett will not go to Dubai and visit the Israeli pavilion at Expo 2020, or meet with business leaders to promote trade with Israel.

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