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Netanyahu to visit UAE

Already before assembling his government, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu prepares his first visit abroad — to Abu Dhabi.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Affairs Minister of the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House, Washington, Sept. 15, 2020.

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu told NBC Dec. 4, “I brought four historic peace treaties, in ways that defied everybody else’s prognostications. … I’m going to bring peace. Categorically. I think I can get another breakthrough for peace.” 

In his interview last week with American journalist Bari Weiss on her Common Sense podcast, Netanyahu stressed his commitment to democratic rule and minority rights. The gist of his messages was that he will be in charge, personally charting the course of Israel’s foreign affairs and defense policies.

Busy with putting together his sixth government, Netanyahu is evidently also preoccupied with reassuring the international community over his Cabinet’s future policies. He keeps reminding everyone it was him who brought about the 2020 Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, and the normalization of ties with Morocco and Sudan. More so, he is pledging to expand the Abraham Accords to more countries in the region.  

Reiterating his commitment to those landmark agreements, Netanyahu plans to hold his first foreign visit to the UAE rather than to Washington as he did in the past. “My first trip, I decided, will be to the United Arab Emirates, as a signal of my seriousness to expanding the peace,” Netanyahu told Weiss. A senior source close to Netanyahu told Al-Monitor that even before his government has been sworn in, preparations are already underway to coordinate Netanyahu’s UAE visit.

In his extensive talk with Weiss, Netanyahu took pride in the fact that “hundreds of thousands of Israelis are flying over the skies of Saudi Arabia to Abu Dhabi and to Bahrain and to Dubai. Arabs and Israelis are dancing in the streets there,” he said. “There is — believe it or not — a Cafe Bibi in Dubai, which I intend to visit,” he added, laughing at the idea of a cafe bearing his nickname.

As prime minister, Netanyahu did not achieve his goal of visiting the Emirates after the signing of the Abraham Accords due to the coronavirus pandemic, political crises at home and tensions with Jordan. According to his aides, Netanyahu also plans to invest serious efforts in establishing ties with Saudi Arabia, a goal that eluded him in the past despite significant attempts.

Netanyahu attended the celebration of the UAE’s national day held last week by the Emirati Embassy at the Tel Aviv Hilton. "The Abraham Accords are not just a piece of paper between governments. They are a warm peace between our people that strengthens security, cooperation and stability in the region,” Netanyahu told participants at the event, also declaring his intention to visit Dubai.

Netanyahu is well aware that the radical face of his new government could be an obstacle to his foreign policy. Details of Likud’s coalition agreement with the Religious Zionism party, revealed earlier today, offer the far-right party extensive powers over Israel’s civilian policies in the West Bank, including the appointment of key officials and providing final approvals for settlement building and for Palestinian home demolitions in a majority of the territory.

Clearly, like the last time he served as premier, Netanyahu will continue promoting the working assumption that Israel can reach peace in the region regardless of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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