Naftali Bennett, Israeli Prime Minister, has paid an historical state visit to United Arab Emirates in order to increase cooperation with a Persian Gulf ally. This is despite rising tensions between Iran and Israel.
Bennett is scheduled to meet with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday – the first such engagement by an Israeli PM in the UAE. This is the next stage in an already normalized relationship. ‘Abraham Accords’Deal brokered by the then-US President Donald Trump
“We’re going to be discussing ways to further our cooperation in a number of fields, especially strengthening our economic and commercial ties,”Bennett spoke to reporters shortly before board of a Sunday plane. “In just one year since normalizing our relationship, we’ve already seen the extraordinary potential of the Israel-UAE partnership, and this is just the beginning.”
Perhaps the greatest shared concern of all the new allies went unmentioned: Iran. Israel has lobbied to help rein in Iran’s nuclear program and has reportedly sought to work jointly on missile defense with Gulf Arab states that share its concerns about Tehran.
Bennett’s trip – his first to any of the four predominantly Muslim countries that were party to the Abraham Accords – comes just a week after the UAE’s national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, traveled to Tehran for meetings with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and security chief Ali Shamkhani. This rare visit is said to have been made to alleviate tensions between Iran and the UAE, who consider Iran its greatest regional security threat.
The Israel-UAE talks also come as Bennett’s government nears a decision on whether to approve a deal that would enable Gulf oil to be offloaded in the Red Sea port of Eilat. This arrangement would enable the UAE to use Israel as a bridge to crude oil exports to Europe. The oil would then be piped along the Mediterranean coast to Europe for loading on to tankers bound for Europe.
Defense contractors from the UAE and Israel agreed to collaborate on unmanned vessel development for purposes such as antisubmarine warfare. Also last month, Israel’s navy took part in joint maritime drills with the UAE and Bahrain – an historic collaboration that Israeli media portrayed as sending a warning message to Iran.