Opposition leader Yair Lapid met with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Italy on Tuesday, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to visit Abu Dhabi.
“Together, we laid the groundwork of the relations between our countries and we will continue to cooperate to deepen those ties and advance the interests of both our countries,” Lapid said.
The meeting lasted three hours. The former counterparts “discussed the strategic relationship between the countries and advancing joint projects,” Lapid’s office said.
Israel's foreign minister unhappy over Lapid-bin Zayed meeting
Following the meeting, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who has yet to meet with bin Zayed, tweeted and then deleted that “there are governments that know how to make peace agreements, and there are those who know how to take pictures.”
Lapid and bin Zayed met multiple times when the former was foreign minister, and the prime minister at the time, Naftali Bennett, made a state visit to the UAE. Bennett, who no longer holds political office, visited Abu Dhabi and met with UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ) again this year.
The meeting came as Netanyahu has awaited an opportunity to visit Abu Dhabi since becoming prime minister again last year. He and President Isaac Herzog accepted invitations from MBZ to attend the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai in November.
Frayed UAE-Israeli ties
MBZ invited Netanyahu to visit after Israel signed the Abraham Accords with the UAE and Bahrain in 2020, but the repeated attempts to visit Abu Dhabi did not bear fruit. He was supposed to visit in January of this year, but the trip was deferred indefinitely after National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount in January, which Abu Dhabi referred to as “storming” Al-Aqsa.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu has forbidden ministers from visiting the UAE until he does so.
In addition, the foreign ministers’ summit of the Negev Forum, Lapid’s initiative in which Israel, the US, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt participated, has been repeatedly postponed.
Other reasons diplomatic sources cited for the Negev Forum foreign ministers’ summit not taking place this year were clashes between Israel and the Palestinians since the beginning of the year, as well as the current government’s approval of thousands of Israeli homes in Judea and Samaria.