UAE calls off Netanyahu trip, says won’t get involved in 'Israeli electioneering’

Netanyahu had been working on an Abu Dhabi visit and meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for Thursday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a memorial ceremony for Joseph Trumpeldor in Tel-Hai, northern Israel, February 23, 2021 (photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a memorial ceremony for Joseph Trumpeldor in Tel-Hai, northern Israel, February 23, 2021
(photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)
The United Arab Emirates rejected attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to squeeze in his first trip to the Gulf state before Tuesday’s election.
Netanyahu had been working on visiting Abu Dhabi on Thursday – including a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan – a week after a planned trip was postponed for the first time.
“From the UAE’s perspective, the purpose of the Abrahamic Accords is to provide a robust strategic foundation to foster peace and prosperity with the State of Israel and in the wider region,” former UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted on Wednesday. “The UAE will not be a part in any internal electioneering in Israel, now or ever.”
The statement by Gargash, who left his position last month, was unusually candid for someone close to the decision-making in Abu Dhabi.
Netanyahu denied that a trip had been planned for this week, telling Radio Galey Israel: “I’m not going to Abu Dhabi before the election. It’s spin. I don’t know who spread it.”
However, Emirati sources told The Jerusalem Post otherwise on Tuesday, and Netanyahu’s schedule had been cleared of political events on Thursday. The Prime Minister’s Office and the Likud campaign did not deny reports the prime minister was planning such a trip, though neither did they confirm it.
Netanyahu has previously postponed four planned visits to the UAE since the Gulf state announced peace with Israel in August. Two postponements were because of COVID-19 lockdowns, and one was because bin Zayed had a scheduling conflict.
Last week’s planned UAE trip was canceled after Jordan blocked Netanyahu’s flight in retaliation for an incident in which Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein canceled a visit to the Temple Mount, after attempting to go with a cadre of armed guards, contrary to prior agreements with Israel.
Netanyahu then ordered that Jordanian flights not be allowed into Israeli airspace. Within several hours, before any Jordanian flights were actually blocked, Jordan agreed to allow Netanyahu’s flyover, but by then, Netanyahu had postponed his trip.
UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Sultan Al Jaber also distanced himself from Netanyahu’s political messaging.
After Netanyahu’s UAE trip was canceled last week, Abu Dhabi announced that it would establish a $10 billion fund from the government and private sector to invest in Israeli “energy, manufacturing, water, space, healthcare and agri-tech...[and] development initiatives to promote regional economic cooperation between the two countries.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly referred to the investment in recent days, saying that it is an expression of bin Zayed’s confidence in the prime minister’s economic policies.
In response to questions about the planned investment, Jaber told the UAE news site The National that the fund is “commercially driven and not politically associated.”
Jaber added that “these are very early days,” and that his ministry is studying Israeli laws with regard to investments.
Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he expects Israel to make peace with four more countries in the region.
“I brought four peace agreements,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Ynet. “There are another four on the way. I talked about one of them yesterday.”
Netanyahu said he received a call from “one of the leaders in the region” on Monday night, and they spoke for 45 minutes.