Neither Israel nor the United Arab Emirates have officially confirmed the planned visit – the first by an Israeli prime minister to the Gulf country.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday has been canceled, Israeli public radio Kan said, citing a source involved in the planning.
Neither Israel nor the United Arab Emirates have officially confirmed that such a visit – the prime minister’s first to the Gulf Power – was to have taken place, nor that it was under review.
Israeli media reported the visit scheduled for Wednesday, saying Netanyahu would meet with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Commentators said it was a chance for Netanyahu to develop his diplomatic credentials ahead of Israel’s March 23 election.
Earlier Thursday, Israeli media said the planned visit could be delayed or canceled by questions over the air route to the Gulf state and illness suffered by Netanyahu’s wife.
Normalization of relations
Israel established formal relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last September – only its third and fourth normalization agreements with the Arab states in more than 70 years – as part of a deal brokered by the United States. The three countries share common concerns about Iran.
The deal brokered by the United States under former President Donald Trump demanded that Israel cease its contentious plan to annex the already illegally occupied West Bank – a step that could have sabotaged the possibility of a future Palestinian state.
Israel and the four Arab countries have agreed to announce deals such as tourism and direct flights, and to open embassies.
Saudi Arabia, a Gulf power and the birthplace of Islam, urged the rapprochement but stopped before recognizing Israel itself.
Netanyahu, a candidate for Israel’s fourth politically polarized election in two years largely thanks to his role in its rapid COVID-19 vaccination program, also made it clear his willingness to forge new relationships in the Gulf region a centerpiece of his campaign.
The most detailed of the agreements was with the UAE. The countries agreed to approve bilateral agreements in 15 areas of mutual interest, including finance, trade, aviation, energy, telecommunications, health, agriculture and water.
The two countries had maintained clandestine security ties for years due to a shared distrust of Iran’s regional enemy.
In an interview with IDF Radio on Tuesday, Netanyahu called on voters to re-elect him on March 23 so that he can strike “more peace deals” in the region while ensuring that the Iran “does not arm itself with nuclear weapons”.
Iran denies that its nuclear program is aimed at developing atomic weapons.